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Friday 24 March – Sunday 29 October 2017
9 photographic prints
Empire Line is a photographic narrative featuring and subverting the image of two social divisions; the ‘memsahibs,’ who were the British colonial, middle class women who resided in India throughout the 19th century, and the native, indigenous women. The visual expression and stylistic approach shown here is an ironic interplay on the visible appearances of both societies, highlighting their social differences, reactions and curiosity in each other’s physical attributes and cultural attire.
The clear and apparent social stratification is explored further by introducing the issue of ‘caste’, an orthodox Hindu social order that is more extreme than the British class categorisation. In this caste system, ‘Brahmin’ is the highest, ‘Sudra’, is the lowest of the four castes and – lying outside of the named categories – `outcasts` who are known as the ‘Untouchables.’ The four subjects represented in these images are of Indian origin, dressed in a combination of both period 19th century dress commonly worn by middle class British women and indigenous Indian dress worn by different castes.
At the same time as being aesthetically pleasing, the images communicate something provoking, crossing taboos that subverts the social and racial divisions imposed by both British and Indian society. The viewer is compelled into believing that the photographs are a viable possibility; however we know that what we see remains impossibility.