The Alipore Post x DAG Museums: March to Freedom

March to Freedom is a new exhibition by DAG Museums at the Indian Museum, Kolkata.


Curated by Mrinalini Venkateswaran, the exhibition interrogates some of the most popular myths and narratives about our history of independence, drawing on rare artworks, objects and photographs from the DAG collection. Each of its eight themes represents one arena of the movement—the lesser known wars before the 1857 revolt, the culture of maritime trade, popular film and travel posters and colonial monuments, among others.


As someone who has been visiting Indian Museum since I was a child, it’s so nice to know that the museum is now holding space for such unique exhibitions. A must-visit for those in Kolkata. The Alipore Post collaborated with DAG Museums to highlight some of our favorite works from the exhibition:


Painting by Sudhir Khastgir, 1957


Sing by Ishan Sadwelkar

Sing mute till you find a voice, sing

Without your chords, only imagining a verse flower at

The tip of your mouth, where your lips

Open to a rain

Imagine your future voice waiting there

Till it finds you and enters you as incense

Settling in your soul; growing, becoming

To later softly emerge into air

Like vapour rising from saffron tea


 

Nathumal Shorimal picture labels from the late 19th century (Oleographs, tinted with gold pigment on paper on print and paper)


Nathumal Shorimal picture labels

In a land of diverse languages and scripts, these illustrated Nathumal Shorimal picture labels from the late 19th century acted as modern-day brand logos for the products. Both European and South Asian-owned companies used well known local names, buildings, or Hindu gods and goddesses on their mill labels, a visual reminder of trade in British India and beyond - into independent India.


While the artists are unknown, these late 19th century colorful chromolithographs are rare collectibles: precursors of graphic design and mass communication, designed in Britain and shipped to distant markets in colonial India, like the Nathumal Shorimal traders from Amritsar. They also reflect the Swadeshi movement during our freedom struggle, calling for a boycott of foreign cloth and advocating the spinning of khadi cotton.

 


Vintage Travel Posters by Indian Railways

These stylized travel posters from the exhibition aimed at painting India as a travel destination made accessible by Indian Railways for Western tourists, for its culture, natural wonders and historical landmarks.

It’s lovely to see such ephemeral objects making their way into the exhibition. Can’t help wondering what ephemeral objects of our times will become collectibles of the future…


Captions for the posters above (Top Left to Right):

1. Simla by Rail Motor, 1930, Unidentified artist

The rail line to Shimla, the summer capital of the British Raj, opened nearly 120 years ago. A lot of political activity took place there, including meetings to negotiate independence, such as the Shimla Conference, 1945. The railway made it possible for politicians from different parts of India to meet there. This rail motor continues to chug even today between Kalka and Simla.


2. Gol Safrichi, 1930, N. Govindrai

The Great Indian Peninsula Railway operated the first passenger line in India. Three locomotives - Sultan, Sahib and Sindh - pulled 400 passengers in carriages from near CST train station in Mumbai to Thane. Before that, railways were used for industrial purposes.


3. Gersoppa Falls, 1930, Charles Shepherd

Raja, Roarer, Rani and Rocket are the four falls that make up the famous Jog Falls (or Gersoppa Falls) in modern-day Karnataka.


4. Jodhpur, 1934, Maureen Eyre Proudman

Unlike many of the artists who designed these posters, Maureen Eyre Proudman actually visited Jodhpur and would have seen the Mehrangarh Fort for herself. She traveled to Jodhpur in 1931 to stay with her uncle, and continued to live in India for three years while working as an artist.


5. Kalighat, 1930, Unidentified artist

The Kalighat temple is an important shrine in Bengal that attracts pilgrims from other places.

 

Portrait of B.R. Ambedkar by V.B Pathare


Freedom by B.R Ambedkar

“Freedom of mind is the real freedom.

A person whose mind is not free though he may not be in chains, is a slave, not a free man.

One whose mind is not free, though he may not be in prison, is a prisoner and not a free man.

One whose mind is not free though alive, is no better than dead.

Freedom of mind is the proof of one's existence.”

(from Writings And Speeches: A Ready Reference Manual)


The hypperalist painting by V.B Pathare feels like a photograph from the past.

 

Guwahati (Boatmen on the Brahmaputra), 1947 by Hemanta Misra | Ink and pastel on paper


A haiku by P.K Padhy

way home …

the floating shadows

ferry the twilight sun


 

March to Freedom is on till 18th September, 2022 at the Indian Museum, Kolkata. Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am to 5pm.


 

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