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Oxford exhibition showcases Indians, non-whites to illustrate its diversity

The exhibition features portraits of current academics and former students — a mixture of individuals including people with disabilities, people from a variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and people from the LGBTQ+ community.

world Updated: Nov 28, 2017 18:24 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
University of Oxford,Aditi Lahiri,Rebecca Surender
The exhibition comes in the backdrop of a recent race controversy at the varsity.(File Photo)

Life-size portraits of three Indians are among several at a unique exhibition at the University of Oxford, staged as part of the varsity’s plans to enhance its record on diversity amid a growing campaign to decolonise its curriculum.

The exhibition, titled The Full Picture: Oxford in Portraits, in open till January at the Weston Library and features more than 20 paintings, drawings and photographs commissioned earlier this year as part of the university’s Diversifying Portraiture project.

The exhibition features current academics and former students — a mixture of individuals including people with disabilities, people from a variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and people from the LGBTQ+ community. The idea is to reflect and promote the university’s diversity and its commitment to inclusivity.

The three Indian-origin individuals on the list of the university’s current staff and alumni who sat for portraits are linguist Aditi Lahiri, BBC journalist Rita Chakrabarti and South African human rights activist Kumi Naidoo.

A university release said sitters were selected from over a hundred nominations of living Oxonians. The portraits of Chakrabarti and Naidoo were completed by artist Fran Monks, while Lahiri sat for Rosalie Watkins.

Others featured include film and television director Ken Loach, astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell, award-winning author Jeanette Winterson and historian Lyndal Roper.

The exhibition comes in the backdrop of a recent race controversy at the varsity and a demand for the removal of the statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes. The statue remains, but has added to criticism that the university does not reflect society and that it admits less students from state-funded schools than from fee-paying private schools.

Chakrabarti said: “I’ve been looking forward immensely to seeing the portraits go on show at the Weston Library, and I hope people in Oxford will stop by to see this varied and exciting collection of works.

“I loved my time at Oxford. There weren’t – then – many people from my background at university there. But that didn’t stop my experience from being overwhelmingly good. I hope this project will show that Oxford is open to everyone, and that it wants to be more so. I hope too that it reflects present-day Oxford back at itself, and that it encourages an ever more diverse range of people to study there.”

Rebecca Surender, pro-vice-chancellor for Equality and Diversity at the university, said: “This series of portraits, created by a talented group of artists, will broaden the range of people represented around the University. All of those nominated and selected to take part have made enormous contributions to Oxford life and to society more widely.”

First Published: Nov 28, 2017 18:24 IST