Tamil Nadu

Documenting the hands behind the Keeladi excavations

A worker at the Keeladi site, cleaning historical objects

A worker at the Keeladi site, cleaning historical objects

The archaeological excavations at Keeladi in Sivaganga district have brought to light the existence of urbanisation in the Vaigai river valley as early as 6th century BCE. Now, an artist has documented the lives and work of the men and women who have been involved the excavation work at the historical site.

Titled ‘Keeladi,’ artist V. Saranraj’s photographs, which are displayed as part of the Chennai Photo Biennale (CPB) Edition-III at the Roja Muthiah Research Library at Taramani in Chennai, have visually documented the role of these workers in the excavation and the steps involved in the process before historical artefacts were finally presented.

From measuring the site, to digging, probing, accessing historical objects, carefully collecting, cleaning them and the tools that were used in the processes, Mr. Saranraj’s photos have documented all of this to record the steps in the excavation process at Keeladi.

“When the objects discovered were kept for public view during the fifth phase of the excavations in 2019, I was one of the several people who visited the site, curious about our ancient past. I was also interested in knowing more about these workers on the site, whose hands brought to light, these historical objects,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Saranraj was invited by the CPB to submit a proposal. “Since I was already interested in Keeladi, I made the proposal about it and CPB provided a grant to document it.” He rented a house in Keeladi village panchayat for about a year to document the process.

During his stay there, he also realised how these workers on daily and weekly wages were proud of their work at the historical site. Over 200 workers, natives of Keeladi from different communities were involved in the work at the site.

The artist maintained that he has displayed only 25% of the images he captured at the site. “I am reflecting on how well various aspects of the records could be used and which form could do justice to them,” he said. His works are on display at the CPB till February 6.


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Printable version | May 24, 2022 12:14:15 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/documenting-the-hands-behind-the-keeladi-excavations/article38302663.ece