Artist uncovers ethically doubtful historical past of statue in MacKenzie Artwork Gallery assortment

Artist uncovers ethically dubious history of statue in MacKenzie Art Gallery collection

The MacKenzie Artwork Gallery and the College of Regina are taking over a quest to return a statue to its authentic dwelling in India.

Winnipeg artist Divya Mehra sparked the investigation when she uncovered the story of how the small stone sculpture got here to be within the Norman MacKenzie assortment. 

“Norman McKenzie was recognized for taking journeys internationally and accumulating artifacts for his assortment,” mentioned John Hampton, interim government director and CEO of the MacKenzie Artwork Gallery in Regina.

In 1913, on a visit down the Ganges River, he noticed a sculpture close to Benares, India, in a shrine that was actively being utilized by individuals within the space.

“He mentioned, ‘I need a statue like that,'” Hampton advised CBC’s The Morning Version. “And he discovered somebody that was keen to get it for him.”

Hampton mentioned this was ethically suspect, however was a typical apply on the time. 

“You may discover many related and perhaps much more suspect tales throughout all [Western institutions], which simply brings into query how these collections are constructed.”

The centerpiece of Divya Mehra’s exhibition at MacKenzie Artwork Gallery is an inflatable Taj Mahal. The exhibition explores the theme of reproduced, misclassified, staged and stolen cultural property. (Provided by MacKenzie Artwork Gallery)

Hampton mentioned Mehra’s findings “set a wave of movement into impact,” together with conversations about whether or not the gallery had a proper to indicate the artifact and who the artifact actually belonged to.

Norman MacKenzie’s assortment technically nonetheless belongs to the College of Regina, so the MacKenzie Artwork Gallery began conversations with the college about repatriating the work.

“We will make the supply to the Indian authorities to return this object,” Hampton mentioned. “There is no assure that they will settle for that provide. However we’re all in settlement that it is one thing that we needs to be doing.”

The gallery can also be taking a more in-depth take a look at the opposite 5,000 objects in its assortment.

“It is sparked our curiosity to ensure that now we have a fulsome historical past of the provenance of all of those objects and to ensure that we all know if there are any extra,” Hampton mentioned.

‘Dude, that is a girl’

Divya Mehra has an exhibit on the MacKenzie till January 2021. It examines a number of the themes from her analysis — together with a bit impressed by Indiana Jones.

“It is a sack of sand that weighs the identical because the sculpture,” Hampton mentioned. “She needs to swipe that piece from our assortment and return it to the right dwelling after which change it with a bag of sand as if there’s some booby traps, institutional booby traps that might stop it.”

The thing was beforehand recognized as a statue of Vishnu, however Mehra seen that did not appear proper.

“I believe her phrases had been, ‘Dude, that is a girl,'” Hampton mentioned.

Dr. Siddhartha Shah with the Peabody Essex Museum of South Asian Artwork appropriately recognized it as an Annapurna, Hindu goddess of meals and nourishment. 

“We’re a cultural establishment and we need to symbolize these cultures precisely and ethically, and now we have to ensure that now we have buy-in from the individuals who produce this work and the place it comes from,” Hampton mentioned. 

“If we do not have that proper, then we do not imagine that we needs to be displaying it in that mild.”

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