24 June, 2021

My Name Is Green

Forged in the cultural ferment of a century ago, Islamic poster art in India thrived on the frontiers of taboo

Jitender Gupta
My Name Is Green
A chubby child-muezzin calling out to the faithful, a buxom bejewelled lady seeking a Sufi saint's blessings, the ornately wrought family tree of the Prophet Mohammed... these are just three images from the wide range of Islamic poster art that thrives in the Indian subcontinent, in spite of the taboo on representations of living beings. The lucky few to drop by New Delhi's Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts last week caught a glimpse of this popular yet little-acknowledged art form, in the first public display of its kind.

Islamic poster art originated in Turkey and Cairo at the end of the 19th century, with calligraphies and images of Mecca and Medina. Believed to bestow 'barakat' (blessings) and protection, these posters were framed and hung in shops and houses. When this art found its way to India around the turn of the 20th century, it evolved into a more vibrant and creative form, visibly influenced by the kind of Hindu calendar art produced by the printing press Raja Ravi Varma founded in Bombay in 1892. The decline of...

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