Color Story (Orange)

There are certain things in our culture that are so common, we never think twice about their meaning or consider their origins. However, delving into how something originated (i.e. a word, idea, cultural practice) can reveal an underlying context, which can give new meaning and significance to the thing itself. In this project, I look at the origins of orange, exploring both the etymology of the word and the use of the color in relation to South Asian culture.

The word for the color orange comes from the Sanskrit word naranga, which describes the fruit. The color orange has long been significant in South Asian culture and religion and was first widely seen in clothing. Because white cloth and fabric could get dirty easily, people used whatever resources available to dye them, and these methods produced various shades of orange.

Over the course of two weeks, I dyed paper orange, using whatever materials I could find. I began by using natural materials that would have been available in ancient times such as spices, vegetables, and fruit. I went on to use materials available in our current time period such as food coloring, orange drink mixes, and various types of inks. Each piece of paper was arranged in a type of chronological order and pinned to a board. A video that shows visuals of the process of paper dyeing, the evolution of the word orange, and audio of the word “orange’ in many different languages, is projected on to the swatches of paper, giving them new form and meaning. 

Color Story (Orange), 2019. Dyed paper.

Video stills from Color Story (Orange), 2019. Video projection on dyed paper. 1min 52sec.

© Julian Parikh 2022