As DakshinaChitra gears up to unveil its newest addition, its founder tells us what to expect
If you thought you’d seen it all at DakshinaChitra, think again. Their Karnataka section, formerly consisting of just one heritage home from the Ilkal region, will soon sport a signboard pointing towards a 100-year-old home from Chickmagalur. The 18th historical home of the heritage centre, to be inaugurated on July 5, also happens to be their first Muslim-style house and will be doubling as the venue for an exhibition titled A Shared Heritage, that was funded by the US Consulate General, Chennai.
Of timber and tiles
Built in 1914, the house belonged to a Muslim coffee plantation owner, and was going to be demolished when the team at DakshinaChitra heard about it. “We bought everything we could salvage from the house — timber, tiles, rafters, stones, etc — and have recreated it,” says Dr Deborah Thiagarajan, the founder of DakshinaChitra. Since the original owners were untraceable and the house had been used as a primary school for a brief period, “we have furnished the house based on inputs from the neighbours,” she adds, pointing out that a majority of the furniture used, was sourced from antique dealers in Northern Kerala, where the family would have had their roots and where the architecture is similar. The owner was also a well-travelled general merchant who kept most of his stores on the first floor of the house and was fond of porcelain. Most of this has been recreated based on inputs, and while all the woodwork has been reclaimed from the original, the three-feet-thick mud walls have been replaced with brick walls, to make them last.
The ample woodwork and spacious balconies are a highlight of the house, and parts of it have been used to set up an exhibition on heritage. “We have installed kiosks playing videos created by S Anwar (a city-based film maker) and upstairs, there’s and exhibition on Sufism,” Thiagarajan shares, about their first digital exhibition. Expect videos on the history of the trade routes, the old mosques, the making of zardosi, the contributions of Muslims to Tamil literature, among other subjects. The project, that is to be inaugurated by the US consul general Jennifer McIntyre, has been curated by Delhi-based Gigi Scaria, with contributions from many supporters — a zardosi panel by Vastrakala and porcelain, furnishings by Sushila Gopinath, among others. So what next, we wonder. “I hope we get to put up a home from coastal Andhra Pradesh next. And if we could, we’d like to add at least three more from Andhra and three from Karnataka,” she concludes.
The Muslim house and exhibition will be inaugurated on July 5, at 4.30 pm.