Project Name: A Virtual Museum of Kondh Resistance: 1835-Present
Grantee: Madhuri Karak
Funding Cycle: 2017-2018
White Paper: PDIG White Paper_MKarak_2018
About the Project
This project proposes to build a virtual museum of the Kondh, a tribe from peninsular India. Tribal peoples continue to be represented as out-of-time, backward relics in brick-and-mortar museums. Not only do dioramas and objects of “culture” in the form of, for example, agricultural tools, pottery, and dress fail to historicize the Kondh’s complex relationship with the Indian nation-state, contemporary struggles against development-induced dispossession also remain outside the viewer’s frame. Representations of tribal peoples in public spaces are important especially because they inform debates on development and social change. In mainstream discourse, resource-rich, forested areas in Inida’s hinterland are characterized as zones of sacrifice. Here, displacement is the sacrifice tribes must make in the interest of national economic growth. This rejection of tribal ways of life coexists with a valorization of tribal culture, and by highlighting cultural elements without the political context in which they are grounded, museums in turn become complicit in the violence enacted daily against tribal peoples.
The virtual museum of this project would serve as a repository of archival and contemporary ephemera of the Kondh – images, soundscapes of political rallies, revolutionary songs, colonial portraiture, hand-drawn land-claim petitions, etc. – publicly available. By placing, for example, colonial pen and ink portraits of the Kondh from the mid-19th century next to photographs used by the transnational anti-mining movement in the 2000s, or poetry collected by missionaries alongside revolutionary songs composed by present-day anti-mining activists, this virtual museum would raise questions about continuities and shifts in lived identities. Collected in the material and discursive context of an anti-mining movement, this virtual museum attempts a grounded, dynamic representation of Kondh everyday life.