Unusual 19th Century Prisoner Of War Or Folk Art Mixed Media Painting
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A Very Unusual 19th Century Prisoner Of War Or Folk Art Mixed Media Painting. Beautifully Carved Wooden Frame And The Painting Itself Has Been Done On A Section Of A Cargo Crate Marked “Produce Of Travancore India”. The Painting Has Been Done With A Mixture Of Elements, Giving It A 3D Effect.
Firstly, you'll see that it appears to have been made from cut outs of different materials, almost like the artist was forced to use whatever they could find to create this picture. This gives it an almost three dimensional effect.
Secondly, it has been created on the back of a section of cargo crate, again, suggesting that this was made with whatever the artist could lay their hands on.
Thirdly, the naive but superbly done carving to the front of the wooden frame suggests an artist with skills in many crafts.
And, the final interesting element for me is the actual subject of the painting. A small lone church sat within a range of hills and mountains. A religious element portraying hope, perhaps.
My research started with the clues I had and the most glaringly obvious one was on the back of the painting. Stamped onto the piece of cargo crate is the wording "produce of Travancore India", and it was this clue that lead me to research, in detail, the second Boer War.
28,000 Prisoners of War were detained during the Second Boer War and almost all of them were shipped out of South Africa to prisoner of war camps in other parts of the world.
Initially, they were held on the island of St Helena. However, when that proved too small, they were sent to Bermuda in the Caribbean, to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and to India.
With this painting's link to Travancore, it was the camps in India that I looked into, where, by the end of the war, more than 9,000 Boers were held in about twenty military camps across India.
I studied each of these camps to see if there were any possible links to my painting, i.e. similar terrain, nearest places of worship and links to Travancore. And, this is when I found the camp at Kakool (Kakul). This particular camp was stationed in an identical terrain to that in the painting. I also learnt that it was situated just 5 kms northeast of Abbottabad.
Quite spookily, it was in Abbottabad that I discovered St Luke's Church (see last photos), which was built in 1864.
According to recorded accounts the Boer prisoners of war landed in Bombay and then traveled by train to Rawalpindi. From there, they travelled by camel and foot via some rest houses, to Abottabad. The first prisoners to arrive at Abbottabad camped on the northern side of the town while the camp was being completed.
This sentence in particular from one of these accounts appears to link in nicely with this painting, "The nights were cold and the men could see the snow-clad mountains in the distance".
According to one source (Elria Wessels), the Kakool (Kakul) camp was one of the smallest and short lived in India. Prisoners were initially housed in eight rows of tents on what had been a plowed field. As a result it was not very level and they experienced some difficulty in keeping their belongings dry when it rained. There were eight cooking huts and a wash house. Large wooden huts were later built and they moved into them. While they were still in the tents there were eight to ten men to a tent. There were twenty-four men in a hut of 90ftX20ft. A high barbed wire fence surrounded the camp with elevated guardhouses overlooking the camp.
So, there you have it. Is this a piece of prisoner of war art from the second Boer War? Is the church in the painting St Luke's in Abbottabad? Or is this a piece of folk art? I know what I think.
Condition is good, commensurate with age.
Measures 32cm x 29cm x 1.5cm
Weighs 400 grams
** See my blog post for further info - here **