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Colonial Collecting and Display

Colonial Collecting and Display: Encounters with Material Culture from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Claire Wintle
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Colonial Collecting and Display
    Book Description:

    In the late-nineteenth century, British travelers to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands compiled wide-ranging collections of material culture for scientific instruction and personal satisfaction. Colonial Collecting and Display follows the compelling history of a particular set of such objects, tracing their physical and conceptual transformation from objects of indigenous use to accessioned objects in a museum collection in the south of England. This first study dedicated to the historical collecting and display of the Islands' material cultures develops a new analysis of colonial discourse, using a material culture-led approach to reconceptualize imperial relationships between Andamanese, Nicobarese, and British communities, both in the Bay of Bengal and on British soil. It critiques established conceptions of the act of collecting, arguing for recognition of how indigenous makers and consumers impacted upon "British" collection practices, and querying the notion of a homogenous British approach to material culture from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-942-8
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xvii)
  6. Map of the Andaman Islands
    (pp. xviii-xviii)
  7. Map of the Nicobar Islands
    (pp. xix-xix)
  8. Introduction: Imperial Encounters and Material Culture
    (pp. 1-17)

    This book starts with an object. A beautiful, frightening, squatting wooden figure, with eyes of shell and tin, a hooded head painted red and white, and an open, grinning mouth full of pointed teeth. Probably carved in the early nineteenth century, the figure represents a mythical tortoise-like animal – akalipau– said to be bigger than a human, and to have once existed on the central Nicobar island of Katchal. Known in the Nicobar Islands as ahentakoi, this object is likely to have begun its life at the hands of an artisan who, under the guidance of a doctorpriest, would...

  9. Chapter 1 Production, Use, Exchange: Spheres of Influence in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
    (pp. 18-56)

    Carefully wrapped in tissue paper and packed in an acid-free box in the stores of RPMBH are two body adornments from the Andaman Islands made from exhumed human remains.¹ The first is a double necklace composed of two thick lengths of cord bound together and flanked by evenly spaced, short segments of human bone, each bound neatly and tightly to the necklace with fine twine. A single cockle shell is affixed to the end of the necklace and each segment of bone is painted with red clay. The second object, also a necklace, is made of four thick lengths of...

  10. Chapter 2 Colonial Perspectives on Material Culture from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
    (pp. 57-112)

    There are currently two sets of Great Andamanese body ornaments in the collections at RPMBH. They were both collected around the same time, in the years around 1900, and made in similar social contexts by Great Andamanese women from looped layered or bound strips of pandanus leaf. Despite this common origin, today the objects can easily be divided into two separate categories: while the first group of belts and bands are largely pristine (see, for example, Figure 4.3), and show little sign of use or handling, either in the Andaman Islands or in later stages of their lives, the others...

  11. Chapter 3 Wider Spheres of Influence: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands in Victorian and Edwardian Britain
    (pp. 113-154)

    The individual objects which make up RPMBH’s collection from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands will return to feature ‘centre stage’ in the narrative of their social lives in Chapter 4. There, we will discover how developments in Brighton came to impact upon the material culture which once belonged to Man, Temple and Tuson as they entered the more institutionalized phases of their ‘careers’. Questions as to how museum display (or storage) affected the understanding of these objects will be posed: how did, for example, the personal taste of museum curators, the agenda of the museum’s trustees and the legacy of...

  12. Chapter 4 Public Property: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands at Brighton Museum, 1900–1949
    (pp. 155-207)

    In September 1904, a donation of ‘Four Megapode eggs’ was formally acquired by the Public Museum and Art Gallery of Brighton.¹ This early gift, offered by a newly retired Edward Horace Man to his local municipal museum, comprised the first of his Andaman and Nicobar objects to be accessioned into the collections of Brighton Museum. Over the next twenty years, Man’s larger collections, alongside those once owned and interpreted by Richard Carnac Temple and Katharine Sara Tuson, would, in small instalments, enter into this public sphere; here, in their new home, they would become subject to all the processes of...

  13. Chapter 5 Objects and Encounters Today
    (pp. 208-216)

    This book has drawn upon the three-dimensional object to provide a series of unique insights into the imperial histories of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It has positioned RPMBH’s collections of Andamanese and Nicobarese objects as an exceptional, central resource with which to interrogate the processes of contact, collection and display in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as played out in the Bay of Bengal and, later, on British soil. The carvedhentakoiwith which we began our story lived through initial processes of manufacture and ownership in the Nicobar Islands, but then left behind a life dedicated...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-237)
  15. Index
    (pp. 238-244)