Looking at how Europeans traded with Asia from the 18th century onwards, an exhibition shows how Asia viewed these strange foreigners in their homelands.

Two objects from the Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean shed light on the complex artistic response to European trade and power relations. The Islands were colonised by Denmark in 1756, and then sold to Britain in 1869, and are now a union territory of India.

A Nicobarese hentakoi (painted board) shows the selective adoption of European practices and goods, and the importance of local objects deemed valuable and symbolic. Hentakoi were thought to have protective powers, and this example shows a European ship, a local vessel and a Chinese boat, as well as a deity flanked by a compass and chronometer.

A kareau (protective figure) from the Nicobar Islands is also included in the display – portrayed wearing a European pith helmet.

Instances of Western influence on Asian artists are shown alongside Chinese porcelain made for export to markets in Europe.

A more recent image of Churchill chewing a bone was made after Japan invaded the former British colonies of Malaysia and Burma for the front cover of a magazine, and reminds us Brits that not everyone thought him a great war leader.

The exhibition is an interesting diversion next to the main entrance to the British Museum, and a sometimes challenging insight into how others see us.

The exhibition, What is Europe? Views from Asia is open until 22nd October. Entry is free.

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One comment on “British Museum reveals how Asia viewed Europe
  1. Karthik says:

    Thieves

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