The University of Canada will soon return to India a unique image of the Hindu goddess Annapoorna who was stolen from a shrine in Varanasi more than a century ago and found its way to the Varsity art gallery.
A Canadian university will soon return to India a unique image of the Hindu goddess Annapoorna that was stolen from a shrine in Varanasi a hundred years ago and found its way to the varsity art center, in an effort to “correct historical flaws” and help defeat the “destructive legacy of colonialism”.
This photo is part of the University of Regina collection at the MacKenzie Art Gallery. This image was part of the first 1936 petition by Norman MacKenzie, the name of the gallery.
Artist Divya Mehra has taken note of the fact that the image was taken in error a hundred years ago during the presentation of MacKenzie’s permanent collection and is preparing for her exhibition, the university said in a statement Thursday.
The statue will soon begin its journey home after a repatriation ceremony held on November 19. The interim university president and vice-chancellor Dr Thomas Chase almost met with Indian High Commissioner to Canada Ajay Bisaria to officially return the statue, he said.
Representatives of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, Global Affairs Canada, and the Canadian Border Services Agency also attended the event.
“We are happy that this unique portrait of Annapoorna is on its way home. I thank the University of Regina for their involvement in restoring this cultural image in India, ”said Bisaria.
While researching the subject behind the image, Mehra discovered that MacKenzie had seen the image during a trip to India in 1913. A stranger had heard of MacKenzie’s desire to have a statue, and he stole it from our original location – a temple of stone stairs on the banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi, India, varsity said.
Dr Siddhartha V Shah, Treasurer of Indian and South Asian Art at the Peabody Essex Museum, identified the statue as the Hindu goddess Annapoorna.
She is holding a bowl of kheer (rice pudding) in one hand and a spoon in the other. These are the things that go with Annapoorna, the food goddess and queen of the city of Varanasi. He was greeted by his devotees as a man who nourished and strengthened the body with food, and the soul with enlightenment, the statement said.
“The repatriation to Annapoorna is part of a global dialogue, which has long since museums sought to address the dangerous and ongoing history of kings built on, at times, the foundations of their collections. As custodians of cultural heritage, our moral and ethical responsibility is paramount, as is our willingness to look beyond our institutional history, ”said Alex King, Curator / Preparator, University of Regina President’s Art Collection.
While current executives at the University and the MacKenzie Art Gallery were warned of documents exposing the image as a cultural theft, both institutions were committed to taking appropriate action, varsity said.
“As a university, we have a responsibility to correct historical flaws and help overcome the damaging legacy of colonialism where possible,” Chase said.
I thank the MacKenzie Art Gallery, the Indian High Commission, and the Canadian Department of Heritage for their role in making this possible, ”said the Vice-Chancellor.