I found the Enlightenment Gallery in the British Museum full of rather interesting artefacts but I found it lacked a certain appeal that prevented me from being fully engaged with the pieces displayed in front of me. I found this was exacerbated after listening to Peta Motture’s lecture because of her lengthy explanation on all the thought that goes into curating a museum. I found various key points displayed in the Enlightenment Gallery, points that Peta had spoken about. For example, I noticed the seating areas within the Gallery and I remembered Ms. Motture saying “We really do think of everything,” but I felt like the benches in the Gallery were a bit oddly placed as one could only glance at a few pieces from where they were positioned. I also found some of the glass cabinets a bit lacking because of the placement of the items in the bottom shelves where one has to really bend to be able to see them (maybe this was just because I’m tall?).
Either way, I found that this did not cater to a full range of audiences the way Peta had mentioned and I even saw some old people talking about the pieces and how they couldn’t bend down to see them closely. I found the layout of the Gallery quite interesting however and spent a long time finding the congruence on either side of Section 4. I found it really interesting how Peta mentioned the absolute detail that goes into producing a gallery or an exhibit in a museum; it reminded me of the quote- “God is in the details.” I think the Gallery in the British Museum is an excellent one and it is probably silly of me to find faults with it, but I feel like after listening to Peta’s lecture and gaining a “behind the scenes” perspective, I find it hard to not analyse the Gallery.
The Mughal Era is my favourite period of Indian history and thus I was rather excited to go to the exhibit at the British Library. I had previously planned to go see the exhibition in my own free time and was delighted to see it as a field trip on the class syllabus. I found the entire exhibition fascinating because of the showcase of various objects around the country I live in. I found it hard to decide on one singular object but I decided on this painting titled “Six recruits to the second regiment of Skinner’s Horse.” The name of the regiment immediately sparked my interest as there still exists a division of the Indian Army called Skinner’s Horse.
The picture depicts six men who have just been recruited to John Skinner’s regiment that he created independent of the British Army due to his half-Indian heritage. I find that the deeper issue that this painting addresses is the treatment of the Anglo-Indians upon the arrival of the East India country and the “mingling” of the two races upon the settlement of the British in India. By the 18th Century, the British had almost established themselves in the subcontinent. The “Yellow Boys” as Skinner’s Horse began to be known, due to their uniforms, were a collection of various castes, which was not very common in India at the time because the army was usually reserved for the so-called warrior castes. Skinner had been discriminated due to his heritage and due to this, he allowed even the lower caste “Jats” and “Gujjars” to join his ranks and this shows some of the change brought forth by Anglo-Indians. However, in keeping with their policy of divide and rule, the East India Company encouraged caste differences but this picture depicts a time that was before the establishment of the British Raj but at the decline of the Mughal Empire. The painting shows the caste differences and the blending of two cultures in the form of Skinner who was an Anglo-Indian, as they became known. Skinner was later adopted into the British Royal Army, after proving his loyalty to his paternal half.
Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you’re bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.
Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes,
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
I decided to take this picture because the first thing I was reminded of upon reading the poem is the concept of ying and yang; the constant energy that requires opposing sides to balance each other out. Some examples of ying and yang include the male and the female, dark and light, cold and hot, passive and active, etc. Similarly, in the poem, there is a juxtaposition of opposing themes such as ‘the hand that opens and closes’, ‘expecting the worst and seeing a joyful face,’ ‘fist or stretched open.’ Rumi goes on to describe these as “beautifully balanced and coordinated,” and in that lies the essential principal of the ying and yang. The picture that I took is very simple and shows the stark contrast of the two sides of my face. I left one in darkness as it allows for basic symbolic reference of the ying and the yang and also because it exemplifies a lot of the basic ideas in the poem. In the first line Rumi speaks of a mirror and a camera works similarly to a mirror and hence reflects my face as the beholder in the poem. Rumi concludes that each side is essential for fullness and the balance in the end, and I decided to apply that in human terms with regards to my face as each side is required to complete my face and yet I wanted to show only one side to depict the meaning that I gleaned behind Rumi’s poem. Rumi also refers to a face in his poem and that sparked my idea of depicting my own face. Rumi also talks about the essence of his idea when he speaks of “if it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed,” in that the two opposing actions are required for normal human function and if one were stuck in either one of the two, they would be “paralyzed.”