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Indian history on a label

“These were things that would have been thrown away by now, but owing to their religious iconography, they became collectibles,” says Radhi Parekh, founder director of ARTISANS’ which is organising a collection of vintage textile labels and calendars, titled Ephemera: India Identity and Imagination.


An old textile label on display at the exhibition, Ephemera: India Identity and Imagination

The collection of textile labels that is on display at the exhibition-cum-sale provides an insight into the trade situation during the nineteenth century in India when commodities that were industrially produced in Britain were often made from Indian raw materials.


Another textile label on display at the exhibition

A varied collection of mill labels were produced at that time, creating a curious visual culture, which carried subliminal messages of identity, meant to capture the imagination of a consumer with whom the producers had little direct touch.


An old textile label

“It took us a year to source these textile labels and calendars from different collectors and dealers. It was not easy to get hold of it, and to put a collection together,” informs Parekh. Parekh also added that at that time, British products exported to India depicted Hindu deities on their labels and calendars as promotional device.


A label inspired from Charminar in Hyderabad

This new imagery abstracted from the conventional norms of iconography became the prime objects of worship.


These old textile labels used Indian influences in order to connect with Indian customers in the pre-Independence era as seen in the two labels for e.g. lion and trident

Often, German printers mass-produced cultic pictures for their British clients who in turn, exported them to India a phenomenon that acted as an instrument of pan-Indian Hindu resurgence and consolidation of Hindu unity which played a major role in the shaping of Hindu nationalist movement in the colonial India.

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