Art Education in Colonial India: Implementation and Imposition

By Kantawala, Ami | Studies in Art Education, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Art Education in Colonial India: Implementation and Imposition


Kantawala, Ami, Studies in Art Education


Historical inquiry in art education forms the basis of any research undertaken in the field. It is on this path that we discover ignored moments and personalities and clarity challenging ideas, thus approaching history from multiple perspectives. This historical study attempts to reframe the past of colonial Indian art education within the broader context of art education histories. It raises questions about the teaching of drawing and negotiation of teaching practices in between the cultures of the colonizer and the colonized and analyzes the similarities and differences between the art education practices of England and India. The study offers a powerful reference point from which present day practices for teaching of drawing and issues of culturally embedded pedagogy in art schools in India can be examined. By reframing the colonial past, this study invites students, especially South East Asian students, to establish a relationship with their past in the postcolonial context. It is an historical, theoretical, and comparative analysis, providing an opportunity to examine Indian art education from the position of both the colonizer and the colonized.

This historical study attempts to reframe the past of colonial Indian art education during the 19th century within the broader context of art education histories. Historical inquiry in art education has formed the basis of any research undertaken in the field. On this path, we may discover undocumented moments, undocumented personalities, and clarify challenging ideas, thus, approaching history from multiple perspectives. Historians and readers of history have not been Outsiders'to the study, but 'insiders' in the history that interests them (Erickson, 1984). The process of historical research may lead us to better knowledge of our past, and our quest for research leads us to understand, in Graeme Chalmers's (1 992) words, "how we came to be where we are" (p. 254).

Efland's (1990) chronological account of how German and English art education institutions, movements, trends, and philosophies influenced pedagogical practices in the United States offered a Eurocentric narrative. Insights into art education practices in other countries have been rare. The Penn State Seminarson the History of Art Education in 1 985 and 1 989 turned to several histories of art education, along with ideas on the importance of the process of selection and interpretation in historical research and writing in art education. The Handbook of Research and Policy in Art Education edited by Eisner and Day (2004) painted a broad picture of the history of art education in the 20thcentury, but there has been no specific historical account of art education dealing with South East Asia.1 Bresler (2007), on the other hand, carved out a space for international histories of art education in her text, international Handbook of Research in Arts Education, bringing to light ways to explore diverse histories, perhaps for the first time in many years; yet, this text offered no reference to South East Asia. Every now and then, historical accounts have appeared in Studies in Art Education, Art Education, the International Journal of Art and Design Education, and the International Journal of Education through Art. One of the idiosyncrasies of much of the published American and European art education historical literature has been the nonexistence of accounts of art education from South East Asia. Despite the growing number of publications in the histories of art education today, there has been an absence of discussion on the impact of colonialism on Indian art education and an examination of the complex interrelationships between the histories of art education in India and England in mid-19th century. In the limited studies that have been carried out, according to Dewan (2001), art schools in India have been represented as ineffective, alienated, and insignificant colonial institutions.2

Tara por (1977) was perhapsthe earliest Indian scholar to explore the history of art education in India in her doctoral dissertation. …

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