Imperial Visions: Art, Architecture and the British Empire in India
Saturday 28 November, 14:00 – 16:15 (London)
Delivered live via Zoom
£20 (£15 concessions: over 60s, unwaged and students only)
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Image: King George V and Queen Mary at the Red Fort in Delhi, 13 December 1911. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020
Join us to critically explore how British imperialism has shaped spaces, art and spectacle in India and Britain from the 17th to the 21st centuries. Our three talks will examine how ideas of imperial authority, often gleaned from India’s own Mughal heritage, permeated cultural encounters between them. Bringing the discussion up to date, we will analyse the legacy, representation and critique of Empire in contemporary art in Britain and South Asia, revealing the aesthetic, social and political implications of this shared past in today’s ‘post-colonial’ present.
Zehra Jumabhoy will introduce and conclude the sessions, contextualising how the legacy of the British Empire continues to pervade contemporary culture; paying particular attention to the calls for ‘decolonization’ in the public sphere. Her discussion will travel from the studios of slyly subversive artists within the erstwhile centre of Empire (think of Raqib Shaw’s glittery Peckham headquarters) to the installations of those who use the imperial past to make subtle socio-political comments about India today.
Emily Mann will begin in the boardroom of the East India Company, in the heart of the City of London, to reveal the ways in which the company’s overseas activities and ambitions through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were made visible in the fashioning and furnishing of its home headquarters. Through specific objects, we will then travel east and explore the crucial early settlement that ‘belonged’ to the company on India’s east coast: Madras/Chennai. What shaped the physical presence of British interests here? And how does that assertion of authority shape the modern city?
Emily Hannam will explore the relationship between the British monarchy and the Mughals both before and during the period of British Crown rule in India, known as the British Raj. Highlighting works of art now on display in the exhibition Eastern Encounters at The Queen’s Gallery in Edinburgh, she will consider the personal encounters between British monarchs and Mughal emperors and examine how members of the British royal family appropriated Mughal cultural heritage to further their own imperial ambitions.
Dr Zehra Jumabhoy is an UK-based art historian, curator and writer specialising in modern and contemporary South Asian art and its diasporas. She was the Steven and Elena Heinz Scholar at The Courtauld, London, where she completed her doctorate and continues to be a visiting lecturer. She guest curated British artist Yinka Shonibare’s site-specific installation, Justice for All, at Singapore’s Old Parliament House (January 2020) to coincide with the Singapore Biennale. Her book, The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today, was published by Random House, London, in 2010.
Dr Emily Mann lectures at The Courtauld, where she teaches European art and architecture in a global context. Her research and publications centre on the relationship between visual culture and European expansionism in the world through the growth of trading networks and territorial settlements, c.1550 to c.1800. At the same time as investigating historical processes and production, she is concerned with postcolonial attitudes and approaches to empire’s material legacy.
Emily Hannam is Curator of Islamic and South Asian Collections, Royal Collection Trust. She curated Eastern Encounters (2020) at The Queen’s Gallery, The Palace of Holyroodhouse, and Splendours of the Subcontinent (2018) at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, and is the author of the accompanying publication. She featured on the 2018 BBC series Art, Passion and Power and holds degrees in History of Art from the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford specialising in the art of South Asia.
Moderator: Dr Anne Puetz, Head of Short Courses, The Courtauld