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Past Country

“Invariably, collections came on the market on the death of a collector,” says Ebrahim Alkazi, 86, whose collection of colonial-era images of South Asia is now the largest such repository in private hands. For Alkazi, too, it was the death of his father, a rich merchant with roots in Kuwait, that left him with a fortune enabling him to indulge his passion. HT Correspondent reports.

art and culture Updated: Dec 11, 2009 22:54 IST
HT Correspondent

“Invariably, collections came on the market on the death of a collector,” says Ebrahim Alkazi, 86, whose collection of colonial-era images of South Asia is now the largest such repository in private hands. For Alkazi, too, it was the death of his father, a rich merchant with roots in Kuwait, that left him with a fortune enabling him to indulge his passion.

Alkazi started collecting in the 1960s in Europe, Asia and the Americas from auctions and from “specialised shops run by extremely well-travelled and scholarly people”. Today, the Alkazi Foundation, housed over three storeys in south Delhi, claims to have more than 90,000 prints that are encased in neat stacks of acid-free Solander boxes. It has put out eight exhibitions and three books, and conducted a clutch of lectures and workshops in colleges.

Rahaab Allana, Alkazi’s grandson
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There’s no love lost between Doolan, Shah Jehan and Begum of Bhopal in this 1862 print by James Waterhouse. The image will be part of the new show that’s on from December 18
who joined the Foundation as curator three years ago, says his priority now is to make more of the collection available to a larger viewership.

For browsing from the Foundation’s collection of prints by James Waterhouse, an officer with the colonial army who became one of the earliest photographers of India, you need to head for the show that’s coming up.

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A view of the Bombay coast that’s now the Marine Drive. An 1865 albumen print by Samuel Bourne
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The Maharaja of Rewa arrives at the Delhi Durbar of 1903. An albumen print by Raja Deen Dayal
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Nawab Secunder Begum of Bhopal, KSI, in regalia. A 1862 albumen print by James Waterhouse