Title: Cultures on tour: the roots and routes of a British museum exhibition on Assam
Authors: Georgina Pope
Addresses: King's College, University of London, London
Abstract: The 2016 British Museum 'Krishna in the Garden of Assam' exhibition was built around a nine-metre textile embellished with Hindu iconography known as the Vrindavani Vastra. As part of the exhibition programming, the museum hosted a 90-minute performance by eleven monks and artistes from northeast India, entitled Vrindavani Paal. This article analyses these two cultural productions - the textile and the dance - in relation to narratives of 'home'. Whilst both are represented as being 'from Assam' by museum narratives and in the literature surrounding Indian classical dance respectively, a close look at their histories and forms reveals a far more complex relationship to this northeast Indian state than is usually acknowledged. Bringing together diaspora theory of Paul Gilroy and James Clifford, and post-colonial dance scholarship by Margaret Walker and Davesh Soneji, the article de-constructs the narratives surrounding these 'Assamese' arts and examines the stories of travel and translation which have produced their current forms.1 It explains how these stories are visibly manifest in the textile and the dance, and questions why such stories are side-lined in favour of originating myths.
Keywords: Vaishnavism; Assam; India; Tibet; classical dance; textile; Vrindavani Vastra; British Museum; Indian Council for Cultural Relations; ICCR; performance.
International Journal of Tourism Anthropology, 2018 Vol.6 No.4, pp.375 - 389
Received: 09 Dec 2017
Accepted: 17 May 2018
Published online: 27 Nov 2018 *