SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Of Image and Self-imag: God-makers in the Kullu valley

Alka Hingorani

Date: 20 February 2008Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 20 February 2008Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B104

Type of Event: Seminar

Mohras are portable representatives of shrine deities, face-images carried in palanquins during processional festivals in the Kullu valley, in Himachal Pradesh, India. They are religious objects and objects of art. Made of gold and silver, they are also repositories of a large proportion of the material wealth of the villages in the valley. Such objects and their appurtenances, the maker of such objects, the artisan, and the process of creation, both of the object and of the social, cultural and aesthetic field within which it is made and received, are the topics of this discussion. The “image” part of the title addresses processes that reflect and sustain the various phases of the life of such an object, questions of continuity of form and embedded sacral power, of individual and group interaction with the object, and of the changes that are wrought or resisted in the social and artistic fields during their making and use. “Self-image” speaks of the artisan, who belongs to the lowest caste within the social hierarchy of Kullu and lives in intimate association with such objects during their making. Artisans are story-tellers and artists, and their social status during this period is ambiguous; the space they occupy is at the nexus of earthly and godly objects, and on the cusp of social boundaries. It is this shifting status and the ways in which such ambivalence is negotiated that forms the second locus of discussion.

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Sponsor: Dr Crispin Branfoot and Dr Elizabeth Moore