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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Barbara Hosein

When I was a child, my mother had a book of baby names and their meanings. My name, Barbara, means “strange and foreign,” from the Greek. This bothered me, but as I grew up, I began to fulfill that destiny, being drawn to cultures and artifacts from remote parts of the world. I married a man who grew up in Trinidad, West Indies, the descendant of immigrants from India who were part of the great 19th century colonial diaspora.

I like objects that speak to origins, a preference that is reflected in the themes of connection, loss and remembrance in my artwork. I am especially interested in colonial Indian photography. Although its dominant aesthetic is exoticism and the “otherness” of Indian culture, it nevertheless remarkably preserves authentic evidence of the past in great detail and specificity.

“Durzie’s Hut in the Jungle, Bengal” reminded my husband of his childhood in Trinidad. The construction of thatched roof huts was exactly the same, thanks to cultural retention practiced by Indians in the colonies. “Durzie” means tailor, a touching coincidence because that was also the occupation of my father-in-law.

Durzie’s Hut in the Jungle, Bengal.

Durzie’s Hut in the Jungle, Bengal.

John Saché. c. 1875 (8 ½” x 10 ½”).

John Saché (1824-1882) was a prominent European commercial photographer working in Northern India. This example of colonial Indian photography presents a rural scene of thatched huts with a background of bamboo.

Photograph purchased from Daniel Wolf at the Daniel Wolf Gallery in Manhattan in 1980.