This colonial art has a message for the 21st century

Colonial structures in Vizag

You’d expect to have massive palaces and courtyards with plenty of space in a country born in colonial bondage.

This is true in the case of south India where you’ll find yourself surrounded by British colonialism even now. I learned that British colonial rulers located their headquarters in coastal cities instead of interior regions. In case of an uprising in the country, they could sail away from a coast, faster than landlocked cities in the country.

I found one such coastal city with a natural harbor in south India. As expected, Vizag, helped me in getting that perfect introspective moment about India’s foreign rulers that made my trip here all the more worthwhile.

In Vizag, among several monuments and memorials that the East India Company left behind here, some gorgeous structures are not necessarily visible. 19th century villas, roads and even walls try their best to stay hidden in the 21st century architecture but their European craftsmanship stands out. Exposed to the city’s apathy; Vizag’s colonial touches remains culturally locked and is a thing of the past.

Rocky charm of a colonial wall in Vizag
Colonial world charm

In the older part of the city, behemoths like colonial walls, stand firm and show no sign of decay. The charm and character of natural stone is intact in these massive walls that don’t attract local attention. Hardly anybody notices or remembers the palisades from another time. I was lucky enough to shut my eyes before watching people get ready to urinate on these walls.

Colonial building standing tall and unchanged
Standing tall and unchanged
A fitting resting place for the empress' statue
A fitting resting place for the empress’ statue

Among other edifices, one effigy of a woman who once held the world in thrall for many years is now labelled as a roadblock. City authorities have covered the statue of queen Victoria to protect it from vandalism. In plain sight, the structure looks like a memorial for a bygone colonial era.

The steps leading to the empress has the typical stony texture. Intricate masonry work on the empress’ dress all the way up to her floral necklace is impressive. Finer details like her double chin; hangs from her lifelike face. Most of all, the queen’s timeless expression captures the attention of anybody close enough or daring enough to see her in the eye. The empress maybe in an iron cage but her she does not confine her royal aura.

The statue’s expression felt familiar though, the intense look on her face is similar to the faces of determined women who are restricted by society. The artisan who captured this expression will never know that today, any woman who is a queen in her own right, has the same, determined gaze.

Queen Victoria Statue in Vizag expressing an intense look
She still holds the world around her with fervor

This visual metaphor with a powerful woman who is now in a cage remains abandoned in the city. If not for paying homage to colonial rules, this edifice is a key part of colonial architecture.

Not only does the sculpture of a western woman provide strength to progressive ideas but it imposes an important question, why protect the woman by caging her? Why not teach society to respect her instead?


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