Krishnakriti 2019 Hyderabad

History revisited and re-presented

An aerial view of Ahmedabad’s Kankaria Lake   | Photo Credit: Robert Stephens

A tale of two cities

Ahmedabad Walls and Hyderabad Biophilia by Robert Stephens

State Gallery of Art, Hyderabad, January 4 to 7

Back in time, both Hyderabad and Ahmedabad were walled cities. Inevitably, the cities grew beyond these boundaries (portions of the walls barely exist today). Juxtaposing archival material such as historical reports and maps with contemporary aerial photographs of these cities would make for an engaging discourse. Expect this and more in ‘Ahmedabad Walls and Hyderabad Biophilia’ exhibition held as part of Krishnakriti Festival 2019.

Heritage walks
  • ‘Walking a Munn Map in Darushifa’ by Sirisha Indukuri on January 5; 8am to 10 am.
  • ‘Are you looking for Dewan Deodi’ by Sirisha Indukuri on January 6; 8am to 10am; and January 13; 8am to 10am.
  • Curator’s walk: Ahmedabad Walls and Hyderabad Biophilia by Robert Stephens @ State Gallery of Art, Madhapur, January 6; 12 noon to 3 pm
  • (For a detailed schedule of Krishnakriti 2019’s exhibitions, workshops, performances, and to to register for the heritage walks, look up festival.krishnakriti.in)

‘Ahmedabad Walls’ by Mumbai-based architect and artist Robert Stephens has its roots in the study and report of Ahmedabad by Scottish polymath Patrick Geddes in the early 20th century. Patrick Geddes visited Ahmedabad in April 1915. The municipality sought him out for town planning advice. He was asked if the 500-year-old city walls should be demolished or retained. A three-day circumambulation later, Patrick Geddes emphasised that the walls must be preserved and presented his analysis in ‘Notes on Ahmedabad’.

A century later, Robert Stephens conceived the tactile travelling exhibition ‘Ahmedabad Walls’, juxtaposing Geddes’s report with aerial photographs of Ahmedabad, covering every portion of the city walls as they exist today.

Look up UrbsIndis (urbsindis.com), the urban aerial photography studio and archival library founded by Robert, to know how he documents India’s cities. Robert’s similar visual exploration of Hyderabad began in November 2018. Robert tells us that “Hyderabad Biophilia is an exploration of man’s affinity towards the natural world, in Hyderabad specifically, through the unrealised planning work of Scottish polymath Patrick Geddes and Indian town planner Mohammed Fayazuddin (Fayazuddin (1903-1977) was Hyderabad’s architect and recognised as India’s first town planner. Several landmark buildings, including Ravindra Bharathi, were designed by him). Although from diverse backgrounds and different generations, these visionaries shared one thing in common — an inherent understanding of the value of the natural world and its importance in contemporary urban life.”

Charminar to Osmania, an aerial image of Hyderabad

Charminar to Osmania, an aerial image of Hyderabad   | Photo Credit: Robert Stephens

Robert’s exhibition will juxtapose contemporary aerial photographs of Hyderabad against early 20th century synoptic urban plans. Interwoven through the exhibition will also be a running narrative by American scientist Edward O Wilson, from his 1984 publication ‘Biophilia’. Robert explains, “In many ways, the late 20th century scientific discoveries that Wilson expounds upon, were inherently known to be true by both Geddes and Fayazuddin half a century earlier.”

Robert has structured the exhibition “as a series of imaginary walks, encouraging the visitor to engage their imagination and envision the biophilic city that might have been (and in some ways, still can be).” The juxtaposition of old and new is Robert’s storytelling method that he refers to as ‘Literary-Visual Urban Histories’. “Through my engagement with the work of Patrick Geddes, I have come to value the richness of layering historical knowledge that exists in a variety of medium and formats. I begin with the oldest material available — often paintings. Then, I meander through archival material such as urban plans and reports, and close with contemporary aerial photographs — a truly synoptic vision.”

Robert mulls over the two cities and says, “Both these cities attracted the attention of Patrick Geddes in the early 20th century. The government of India had invited Geddes to Ahmedabad in 1915, and the Nizam’s government invited him to Hyderabad in 1922 and 1923. Geddes received an invitation to return to Ahmedabad in 1922, a request which he was not able to fulfil, quite possibly, because he was engaged in planning an Urdu medium university for the Nizam.”

Hyderabad Biophilia is a long-term project for Robert. “I hope that over the next two years many more discoveries will be made. I have a sense that the work of M Visvesvaraya has equally interesting biophilic highlights, ready to be found and re-presented in the 21st century,” he sums up.

Urban hub

Mapping Dewan Deodi by Sirisha Indukuri and Kishor Krishnamoorthi

Purani Haveli Darwaza, January 5 to 13

An image from the series ‘Mapping Dewan Deodi’

An image from the series ‘Mapping Dewan Deodi’   | Photo Credit: Kishor Krishnamoorthi

Hyderabad-based sociologist Sirisha Indukuri and photographer Kishor Krishnamoorthi collaborate to put forth 30 to 35 exhibits — Leonard Munn maps, images from Kalakriti archives and contemporary photographs — to narrate pictorial stories of Dewan Deodi then and now. ‘Mapping Dewan Deodi’ is part of an Archival and Museum Fellowship programme supported by India Foundation for the Arts (IFA), Kalakriti Archives and Tata Trust. Sirisha has researched on the Munn maps and conducted heritage map walks for Krishnakriti earlier. “These maps are a comprehensive study of the city and its spaces. The map walks and this exhibition are an exercise towards making people engage better with the archival material,” she says. She browsed through available archival maps and images and decided to zoom in on Dewan Deodi. “The area is a vibrant urban maze today, containing with it several shops, residences and apartment complexes,” adds Sirisha, who’s excited to be curating this exhibition, the first one to be held at the Purani Haveli Darwaza.

Map? History? Oh, a board game!

Block by Block by Shikha Pandey

Purani Haveli darwaza, January 5 to 13

Imagine a board game where you piece together the puzzle to see a replica of a historical map of Hyderabad? On the other side of the board, you get nuggets from history. ‘Block by Block’ by researcher and activist Shikha Pandey builds of the Munn maps. In 1912, Mir Osman Ali Khan had commissioned the Hyderabad Municipal Survey Maps. The survey conducted from conducted from 1912 to 1915 was supervised by Leonard Munn, a mining engineer from England. Hyderabad was divided into 16 zones and 699 sheets of maps were created. The Munn maps are survey maps that detail the city’s topography, thus helping further urban planning and development.

A jigsaw puzzle has been created using the 16-grid master sheet of the Munn maps. Along with images of the map and snippets of history, anecdotes of topographical changes and contemporary realities will work as clues to unlock and navigate the maps. Shikha’s work is also supported by the IFA.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2021 11:08:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/krishnakriti-2019-historical-archives-have-lent-themselves-to-a-dialogue-on-contemporary-urban-spaces/article25898801.ece

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