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New Delhi:National Gallery of Modern Art and the India-Bhutan Foundation presents ‘Bhutan: An Eye to History’; an exhibition of more than 80 photographs in colour and black and white from December 23, 2009 to January 31, 2010 at National Gallery of Modern Art, Jaipur House, India Gate, New Delhi.
Says Prof Rajeev Lochan, Director, NGMA: “The photography exhibition, divided into three parts includes the early photographic records of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, close ties of friendship and co-operation between India and Bhutan since the historic treaty of 1949 and a remarkable debut photographic work of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the King of Bhutan.”
SECTION 1: HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY IN BHUTAN
A distinct section deals with the history of photography in Bhutan, showcasing rare pictures from the 19th and 20th century. These images, recording the British Mission headed by the Hon. Ashley Eden to Bhutan in 1864 have never been displayed before. Photographs of His Majesty Ugyen Wangchuck, the first King of Bhutan’s visit to Calcutta in 1905 and to attend the Delhi Durbar of 1911 are amongst important archival photographs being exhibited for the first time.
SECTION 2: INDO-BHUTANESE TIES SINCE 1949
The use of the photographic image to create a national narrative has several parallels across the world, but to include friends of the nation in this narrative seems to have been enthusiastically imbibed by successive generations of photographers, both in India and Bhutan. This collection focuses closely upon the visits of political leaders from India to Bhutan and the reciprocal journeys made by Bhutanese leaders to India. The selection of images looks at the genre of documentary and press photographs and the slot created by them in the official narrative of nations. The democratizing lens of the camera goes on to capture Bhutan as it steps into the new century and is increasingly visible as the newest entrant to the world’s democracies.
SECTION 3:WORKS BY KING OF BHUTAN
The final section displays the debut photographic oeuvre of His Majesty the King of Bhutan. Popularly known as the People’s King, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck has traversed the length and breadth of his country, often by foot. His photographs are both an objective record and personal testimony of his empathy and engagement with his nation. Bhutan remains an idyll, and these transparent pictures are not airbrushed with sentimentality or morphed to disguise lurking shadows.
The exhibition has been curated by Pramod Kumar KG, with support from Lily Wangchhuk and Namita Gokhale. The India Bhutan Foundation, co-chaired by Pavan K. Varma, Indian Ambassador to Bhutan, and General V. Namgyal, Bhutanese Ambassador to India, has extended invaluable support as has the Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.
The charm of the exhibition, thus, lies not just in being able to travel back to a period in history that will never come back, but also get an invaluable sociological document from decades ago.