Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Long Lucid Interval & A Cluttered Hang : Not Forgetting the Peacocke Reunion in Hamilton, NZ, Oct 24 & 25

Firstly, let me wish you all a Very Happy Diwali!! Secondly, a word or two about why this blog has been soporific for the last six months. Since April, to be precise.

To begin with, May and June that is, it was entirely due to work and late, very late, nights in the office. Taking a bit of a breather in July, I got involved with an exhibition of my collection of prints in August, the second such since 2008. The one in 2008 was on engravings of Madras city and consisted of some forty-five items. This year's exhibition expanded on the idea and was called "From the City to the Presidency" and a hundred items were displayed. 'Presidency' refers to the old Madras Presidency of the British Raj, consisting of the whole of the four present day states of South India, except for the old Princely states of Hyderabad, Mysore and Travancore. Displays of Madras city were also included, about twenty in number
but there were no repeats from last year's set.

The exhibitions were held during the annual Madras Week celebrations, commemorating the founding of Madras in 1639 (22nd August) by the East India Company merchants, Francis Day and Andrew Coggan.

As in the previous year, a catalogue in colour was issued at the exhibition and the greater part of August was spent in writing this. It took some time, what with work and with the need to relate the display to the context of the exhibition, the background, the history, the notes on the artists and so on. And from Septemeber until now, I simply didn't get round to making a post, put it down to laziness.

Never mind, here are some pics of the exhibition. Rather a cluttered hang is it not, the gallery is no Guggenheim but is quaint and interesting in its own right (look at the old roofing and flooring), it was actually the hot water bath room (water heated by wood fire, as common in India over 60 or 80 years back) of a GOM called Sir C P Ramaswami Aiyar, with his 5 acre estate and house in the heart of the city having, later, been converted into a Foundation etc by the family. True to its origins, the small gallery is called the Vennirul (hot water bath) gallery!

Note the roofing and flooring in the gallery, I was told about 2000 people visited over the 10 days the display was on and I am sure 1950 at least went away bemused and wondering what all the fuss was about, may be 50 or less spent some time on the exhibits and, perhaps, 5 or 10 really liked it!! Fairly good press coverage, some with mugshot (why? it should have been more pics of the the engravings!), and a nine page colour spread and report in a lifestyle mag. But on the whole, the event must have left about 1950 people rather puzzled.

The pics are not mine but lifted from a well known local blog which covered the events of Madras week.

Turning to more important and topical subjects, the Peacockes in the antipodes are having a reunion in Hamilton, New Zealand on the 24th and 25th of this month (website). I expect there will be much exchange of anecdotal and archival matter, old photos and letters, a get together of cousins and distant cousins. It must be late spring, if not early summer, in New Zealand at that time and I am sure there will be beer and wine flowing as well as great conviviality. I am sure the Reunion will be a memorable and most pleasurable one and I wish all the Best to the Peacockes attending and, especially, to Mary Winter and Andrew Peacocke, two of the organisers.

I have been invited, most kindly and repeatedly, by Mary and Andrew but am unable to go. However, I went to the Nilgiris for an all too brief week end and took some pics of some of the sort of hillscape scenery that Stephen Ponosonby Peacocke, who founded the Peacocke clan, had drawn and left for us to enjoy (see post : "Ooty Preserved").

My pics were taken with the BlackBerry's rather unsatisfactory camera but the haze and mist helped to some extent in covering up for the deficiencies of the camera and in the cameramanship. The pics were mostly shot from a vantage point some 6000 feet above sea level.

View of the Rolling Downs from Hadathorai near Kotagiri

The Deccan Escarpment : Looking North ex Kodanad Point

South Eastwards ex Kodanad Point : the Bhavani Resrvoir

Bhavani Reservoir in the Mist

Doddabettah Peak (Hazily) ex Hadathorai (in the middle of pic, at top & above the township on the slopes)

Deccan Plateau ex Kodanad (North Easterly View)

Due East ex Kodanad Point (taking in the craggy Rangaswami Bettah) looking towards the Biligirirangan Range (aka "the Billies")

Looking Eastward to the town of Satyamangalam (Centre B'ground)Nestling in the Foothills

Our Driver Unwittingly providing Scale to the View!!

The Moyar Valley with Rangaswami Bettah in Stark Relief

Rangaswami Bettah Standing Proud of the Range of Hills (it is actually about 5000 feet high and is climbed monthly by the locals for worship at a temple on the very peak!)

The Moyar Valley showing the Winding Course of the River : the Mysore Plateau to the North (the settlement you see is a village of the Kotahs a dwindling tribal people, the only habitation in this 1000 sq KM valley - who said India is thickly populated?)

The Moyar Valley to the North : A Clearer View

Looking due South (ex Hadathorai near Kotagiri) towards the City of Coimmbatore = the one in the Foreground is the Town of Mettupalayam

View towards Coonoor ex Hadathorai

Warwick House, Kotagiri : A Typical Planter's Bungalow - Note the two Men on the Roof : Blots on the Landscape

God's watercolours, I call these views! Something Stephen Ponsonby Peacocke understood very well and delineated beautifully. My cameramanship is poor and though I do watercolours they are sixth grade stuff, as my wife is always quick to remind me. But Peacocke got the views to perfection, he had a photographic eye, a true artist'ss eye.

And these pics are included here as a sort of curtain raiser to the Peacocke reunion. For the clan foregathering in Hamilton to see the landscape their ancestor drew (and as it looks to this day). It is also a peace offering to Mary Winter and to Andrew Peacocke for my failure to attend the reunion.


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