Through their intellect, imagination and progressive ideas, eminent Indian personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Dadabhoy Naoroji, Mulk Raj Anand and other celebrities made a substantial contribution to enriching the lives of British nationals between 1858 and 1950. To celebrate this extraordinary yet complex relationship, the British Council for the first time is hosting a unique 11-day exhibition that opened at its premises on Kasturba Gandhi Marg here on Friday.
“Beyond the Frame: India in Britain, 1858-1950” celebrates the often overlooked, long history of the Indian presence in Britain. Part of a larger project, this exhibition described as a ground-breaking one by one critic takes a new look at this little-known history.
According to British Council's Head of Art, Pushkin Adam, the exhibition takes a look at the impact of individuals, communities and political movements on British life and their wider relevance in India. “It uses reproductions of contemporary accounts, posters, pamphlets, diaries, newspapers, political reports and illustrations, to build up a clear picture of the diverse and Indians from diverse fields like culture, politics, academia and science have made enriched the British life.”
Noting that the exhibition seeks to examine India's role within Britain, Project Director, Professor Susheila Nasta says it will trace Indian-British interactions across the race, class, gender divide and draw public attention to the complex realities of both countries' intertwined histories. “The accompanying activity for schools, the timeline and online database extend the interest in this project to a wide audience. We hope that this work will capture the people's interest and make them appreciate the huge impact that people from India have had on British life.”
The exhibition highlights the fact that Mahatma Gandhi's epoch-making trip to Britain in 1931 captured the imagination of the British people. Bapu was literally mobbed by over-enthusiastic locals, particularly in the East End of London and by mill workers in Lancashire.
Besides Dadabhai Naoroji, an elected Liberal MP in North London in 1892 and the first Indian to be elected to Parliament in Britain, hundreds of fascinating lives like renowned novelist Mulk Raj Anand, also an Indian programme writer for the Indian section of the BBC in the 1940s where he worked closely with British writer George Orwell, are being celebrated.
Profiling the influential contributions the early South Asian community made to Britain, the exhibition along with an accompanying website and educational programme will provide a history of Indian-British connections during this period. It will engage new audience with a fresh perspective on the impacts on both nations of their shared heritage.
Spanning almost ten decades from the period of the Raj to the better-known era of migration post-World War II, the exhibition and related website will focus on Asian-British engagement on British soil during this time in a range of areas including cultural and intellectual life, resistance and activism, national and global politics, the arts and sport.
The exhibition will travel to Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Pune before Christmas and will be mounted at British Council's libraries in Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and Chennai in February.
The exhibition takes a look at the impact of individuals, communities and political movements on British life