The photographs on view at the British Council focus on a niche Indian presence in Britain during the Raj
In 1866, Robert Gill's paintings of the Ajanta Caves were displayed at the Crystal Palace in Sydenham, South London. In 1896, K.S. Ranjitsinhji played for Sussex, making him the first Indian to play for England. In 1900, an Ayah's Home for Indian nannies was founded in the London borough of Hackney. These lesser-known links between India and Britain form the subject of an exhibition ‘Beyond the Frame: India in Britain, 1858-1950', hosted by the British Council on its Anna Salai premises. South Asians have been living in England since 1600 when the East India Company was founded by British traders. But little is known about the history of the Indian presence in Britain. This exhibition not only traces this history but also the trade of goods and ideas and the migration of people between these two countries.
The panels on display look at various subjects such as Sharing Spaces, Making Britain Home, Indian Art: Shifting Perspectives, Literary Life and Culture, Intellectual Life, Sports and Leisure, Activism and Resistance, and Political Life.
There are pictures that speak volumes about that time — Elveden Hall, Norfolk, an edifice that reflects a fusion of the western and eastern classical styles of architecture. It was built between 1899 and 1903 by John Norton for Maharaja Duleep Singh. The 1 Earl of Iveagh took over the palace and commissioned the Indian Hall there after the Maharaja's death. Sabu, India's first international movie star, after his debut in “Elephant Boy”, is seen perched on his four-legged friend. There are photographs of some of the jackets of Krishna Menon's (an India League activist and Labour Party Counsellor) collection of books under the Pelican series, which he co-founded with Penguin publisher Allen Lane. There is also a portrait of a woman draped in white, looking through the pages of a book. This is Cornelia Sorabji, Oxford's first woman law student, who later campaigned for the property rights of the purdah-nasheen.
Some panels feature photographs of advertisements of the ‘Bombay Emporium', established in 1931— the shop sold tea, coffee, ‘basmatti and pillau' rice, ‘Alphoonse' mangoes and betel leaves — and the Madras Muslin Manufacturers. A picture showing the masthead of The Indian Sociologist, with quotes by Herbert Spencer, edited by Shyamaji Krishnavarma, is also on display.
Told in words and pictures, ‘Beyond the Frame: India in Britain, 1858-1950' offers a peep not just into history but also into the culture and lifestyle of a niche Indian society in Britain.
The exhibition concludes on March 3.