Archive and Memory: India, August 2017
I have just started a project on archive and memory prompted by family albums in my possession of photographs taken in Southern India between 1900 and 1924.
One of my relatives by marriage, Lionel Edward Kirwan, who went to India in 1889 to become a coffee planter, took many photographs. In particular, he photographed the Santawerry and Arabedicool estates near Chikmagalur in the State of Karnataka which he had planted, and the surrounding countryside in the Western Ghats. He had also close associations with Coonoor, Ootacamund and Chennai; he was on the editorial staff of the ‘Madras Mail’ and secretary of the Agri-Horticultural society, Chennai.
I have spent the month of August, tracking down and visiting the precise locations of these historic photographs together with photographer Simon Pruciak. The objective was to locate and to re-photograph them. Starting in Bangalore where Lionel is buried, we travelled around Chickmagalur, visiting the coffee estates which Lionel once owned and staying in one of the plantation bungalows where he once lived. We then travelled to the other places he photographed such as Jogg falls Gorsoppe, Koppa, where he had interests in rubber plantations, Madakari in Coorg, Mysore, Coonoor, Ootacamund in the Nilgiris hills and then Chennai, before returning to Bangalore.
Thanks to Simon, we now have about 200 photographs in large format plus about two thousand digital images.
This project is deeply rooted in it’s colonial past in what in southern India now is usually referred to as ‘the British times’. It touches memory and archive and at this early stage of the project it remains to be seen how it can and will develop.
‘nurseries’ where small coffee plants are nurtured : photographed 1900 and 2017
Jogg Falls, Gursuppe, photographed c. 1900 and in August, 2017