"Children in India study the Indus Civilization in school. It is a part of our cultural heritage. But all we have seen for generations is the same half-dozen pictures over and over again. And those pictures are dull and lifeless. The people are awkward and angular, like skin stretched over bones. They don't seem like people I would want to be friends with."
These words struck me particularly because of who was speaking. They came from my host here in India. He is a journalist from Gujarat -- the Indus heartland. He was speaking, not of some obscure civilization, but of his own ancestors. Ancestors that for years he has longed to know.
I have felt the same lack in much of archaeological illustration for years. A sense of living, shared humanity was missing. But, for all my passion, I am an outsider to the cultures I desire to illustrate. Do the people involved care or notice the lack of connection to their past? Some indeed do.
His words precisely echo the same frustrations expressed by the curators at the museum in Mumbai. The past of the people of India has been unearthed, but it has not been adequately brought to life. And the attempts that were made have already acquired their own patina of age.
I have found a few good illustrations of the Indus Civilization that are more recent than the classic works from the 1930's. This progress is heartening:
With this in mind, I am excited to draw a scene of Harappan daily life. It is designed for the Prehistory exhibit in the CSMVS Museum in Mumbai (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum). I have greatly enjoyed visiting this modern and welcoming museum, spending four rapturous hours poring over the exhibits, and never even finishing the first floor. And I have greatly appreciated the enthusiasm and shared vision of the museum leaders.
My preliminary research has already been fascinating. I will share more of my vision as it takes shape!