Get a glimpse of France

Delhiites witnessed ‘France Heritage’, a photography exhibition built around the labour of love of young Indian conservation architect, Aishwarya Tipnis, who has made a first attempt to map French inspiration in Indian architectures in Gujarat, Puducherry, Hyderabad and Chandernagor.

Drawing from this research, photographers Anay Mann, Gigi Scaria, Serena Chopra, Rishi Singhal, Isabel Saij along with Jean-Pierre Dubois revisited French built and intangible heritage in India in 2012 and brought to life France in India in an exciting journey, bringing back with them their own stories.

Their work, under the curatorship of photographer Anay Mann, took shape of an exhibition around this incredible slice of Indo-French history. “The idea was not only to showcase France’s connections with India and the legacy left behind but also to throw up questions related to conservation and artistic and social and other aspects,” said Anay.

Be these, the French and Islamic architectural styles of the Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad or the association between Le Corbusier and Shodhan House in Ahmedabad or the rapidly changing built heritage landscape in Chandernagor or again the Moorish Mosque in Kapurthala built by French architect M Manteaux and the Jagatjit Singh Palace (now the Sainik School) with its architecture based on the Palace of Versailles, the challenges were many, but the photographers returned with their own understanding of known heritage of India.

It is a known fact that the French East India Company maintained independent trading posts from the 17th to the 20th century in Puducherry, Chandernagore, Mahe, Yanam and Karaikal.

“The French brought to India a new way of life, trade, governance, military warfare techniques, creating a cultural diversity which we now define as shared cultural heritage,” said Anay.

The tangible built heritage varies from forts and military installations, public buildings, residential buildings, public squares, urban artifacts and even urban city planning. Intangible influences on culture include education systems, trade, art, design, interiors and culinary traditions. French heritage in India is multifaceted and presents opportunities for both development of tourism and conservation and restoration.

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