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Rubbing Colonialism at Surat Cemeteries
Zenab Bastawala

Rubbing Colonialism at Surat Cemeteries

In 2017, I visited The British, Dutch and Armenian cemeteries known as 'Alampanah' and 'Gulam Falia' respectively. The colonials impress the natives, by constructing enormous ornamental mausoleums instead of tombstones which are around 300 to 400 approximately at the respective cemeteries. The earliest grave is dated circa 1649. Each grave followed by a discussion of the origins of the cemetery, the chronology of the tombs and the identity and status of the dead. Both (British),(Dutch and Armenian) cemeteries are located within a short distance near Katargam Gate, Katargam, Surat, Gujarat, India. These graves are beautifully carved in English, Dutch, and Armenian languages using the Latin and Armenian scripts. The calligraphy and typography communicate immensely about the monumental inscriptions which lookalike manuscript using Rustic capitals, Uncials, Half-uncials, Chancery hand, Bastarda and Cursive Italian styles along with ornamental patterns of flower and animals; motifs of angles and demon. They are maintained under the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India). Despite this, the majority of these monuments are showing signs of severe deteriora­tion; fallen into decay, their marble slabs have been crumbled, and many have been removed and stolen. Appreciating the historical value of the carvings, I decided to take action to conserve them before the city loses its historical memorials, e.g. by maintaining the physical stones and document the inscriptions, catalogue their text/location, etc. Preserving all of them is a time-consuming process. Firstly, I will be cleaning the slab carefully with water; then rubbing or estampaging on a piece of paper. The estampage paper will be then preserved and scan in the form of a document or photograph to built digitalised archived for a broader audience to use the archive online and increase the utility of the collection. I will also be creating a library of inscribed letterforms as typefaces or font families.
Swaedesi type foundry
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