Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College
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Raghav Kaneria: Community and Creativity / Photographs of Rural India, 1970s–1980s

January 2 - May 26, 2024
In Ripin Gallery

Raghav Kaneria: Community and Creativity / Photographs of Rural India, 1970s–1980s

January 2 - May 26, 2024
In Ripin Gallery

Virtual Tour

Born in 1936 in the village of Anida in northwestern India’s Gujarat state, Raghav Kaneria spent his early years surrounded by the vibrant and dynamic visual world of rural Indian folk arts and crafts. His mother, respected for her skill in drawing and embroidery, encouraged Kaneria’s interest in art, and in high school, teachers recognized his talent. He began to study art formally, and as a university student of fine arts came to appreciate the true value and beauty of his mother’s art. Kaneria went on to receive a scholarship for graduate study at the Royal College of Arts in London. However, returning to Gujarat and working as a professor of sculpture in the 1970s, Kaneria realized that education and modernization were leading people in India to look down on their rich folk-art traditions.

In a recent interview for the Allen, Kaneria reflected on his mission to record these disappearing art forms during the 1970s and 1980s. “As an artist, I realized the value of these things, so I thought that wherever it is surviving, it should be documented before it is vanishing forever…[despite] my limited understanding of photography…and financial limitations.” In the 1970s and 1980s, he traveled on his own, often on foot, to rural areas of Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh, seeking to capture examples of folk arts. “I tried to cover as much as I can during vacations from my teaching job…, [but the] tradition was disappearing very fast while I was documenting it.”

Although primarily self-taught as a photographer, Kaneria’s training and artistic vision helped him to create images of great beauty and visual impact, and his sensitivity to the humanity of his subjects creates an immediate and timeless connection for the viewer.

Special thanks to Raghav and Ankur Kaneria for making this exhibition possible through their gifts and loans. We deeply appreciate Raghav Kaneria allowing us to interview him for this project.

Raghav Kaneria (Indian, b. 1936), Handing Over the Tradition, 1970s–1980s. Silver halide print. Courtesy of Raghav Kaneria, TL44.2023.1.
Raghav Kaneria (Indian, b. 1936), A Friend at the Door, 1970s–1980s. Silver halide print. Courtesy of Raghav Kaneria, TL44.2023.2.
Raghav Kaneria (Indian, b. 1936), Tribal Dance, 1970s–1980s. Silver halide print. Courtesy of Raghav Kaneria, TL44.2023.4.

Organized by

Kevin R. E. Greenwood

Joan L. Danforth Curator of Asian Art

Mimi Montefiore (OC 2026)


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