Vyarawalla at NY’s Rubin Museum

Behind many events of immense magnitude in Indian history — be it Jawaharlal Nehru releasing a dove at Delhi’s National Stadium in the ’50s or Mahatma Gandhi’s body awaiting cremation — stood a petite sari-clad Parsi woman,fondly called “Dalda 13” or “Mummy”.

Written by Pallavi Pundir | Published:August 9, 2012 1:35 am

Behind many events of immense magnitude in Indian history — be it Jawaharlal Nehru releasing a dove at Delhi’s National Stadium in the ’50s or Mahatma Gandhi’s body awaiting cremation — stood a petite sari-clad Parsi woman,fondly called “Dalda 13” or “Mummy”. She became the eyes of the nation,watching and capturing many great events and moments. The works of Homai Vyarawalla — India’s first woman photojournalist who died in January this year — have translated into three retrospectives over the last few years at home. Now,a first for her legacy,an ongoing exhibition at Rubin Museum of Art,New York,called “Candid: The Lens and Life of Homai Vyarawalla” pays tribute to her works from post-Independence India.

Though not a retrospective,the exhibition,planned by the museum’s assistant curator,Beth Citron,and the Delhi-based Alkazi Foundation for the Arts,allows limited selection of Vyarawalla’s original prints — about 50 of them — along with other documents and newspaper cuttings.

“These photographs document the aftermath of Indian independence,highlighting a global interest in the liberalisation of India. Hence,we have various foreign dignitaries who visited India at that time and various Indian dignitaries who went abroad,” says Rahaab Allana,curator of Alkazi Foundation,adding,“We’ve had extensive retrospectives in India and this one is more like a boutique exhibition,which doesn’t show much of her personal life and given the lack of space,has very few works on her life in Mumbai when she was developing her pictorial photography.”

International political figures such as Jacqueline Kennedy,Helen Keller,Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh and Dalai Lama feature in Vyarawalla’s pictures during their visits to India,alongwith Indian leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru,Indira Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri.

The exhibition,accompanied by 30-minute gallery tours,is on till January 14,2013

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