The word thug comes from Thuggee, a tribe in India that opposed British rule and so acquired an association with bandits and assassins. While British rule ended 67 years ago, the word continues to be synonymous with ‘wrongdoer’.
That is just one instance of how colonial rule moulded how we in India see ourselves as a people. Now, two exhibitions opening on Friday at the Mumbai's Bhau Daji Lad museum examine how Indians have determined their own identities in the wake of classifications, divisions and stereotyping that came with colonial rule.
The two exhibitions are titled The Doubled Frame: Interrogating Identity, and POI/Bharat ke Log.
The Doubled Frame displays a series of dioramas, photographs and paintings from the museum’s collection, documenting India mainly through the British lens.
“The dioramas were one of the scientific tools the British used to understand the complex country of India,” said Tasneem Mehta, curator of the exhibition and director of the museum. “Hence, these drawings and dioramas play a crucial role in helping us understand how our identity was shaped, and answer the crucial question of why we look at ourselves the way we do. This collection is being revisited for the first time and is of great relevance today, when there seems to be more differences between castes and communities.”
For the second exhibition, modelled on the same lines, artist Archana Hande was invited to give a contemporary take on the works presented in the first exhibition. She has created video and sound installations that reflect how stereotypes shaped, and continue to shape Indian identity.
Maratha Lady, Rao Bahadur Dhurandhar, c 1916, oil on canvas. (HT photo)
WHAT: The Doubled Frame: Interrogating Identity and POI/ Bharat ke Log, two exhibitions exploring Indian identity
WHERE: Bhau Daji Lad museum, 91/A, Rani Baug, Veermata Jijabai Bhonsle Udyan, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Road, Byculla (East)
WHEN: September 19 to October 19, 10 am to 6 pm (Wednesdays closed)