Opening The Wanted Land

The Wanted Land, an exhibition of contemporary art by Renée Ridgway, opened at 5 pm on Saturday February 18, 2012 at David Hall, Fort Cochin, India. Attended by around 150 people, the evening also consisted of a discussion encircling the Hortus Malabaricus and the launch of the online community platform http://hortusmalabaricus.net. The show was comprised of video installations that refer to the Hortus Malabaricus, its compiler Hendrik van Reede tot Drakenstein and its contemporary usage as well as the history and present-day traces of the Dutch Colonization in Fort Cochin.

The Wanted Land focuses on the cultural exchange that has occurred over the past 350 years on the Malabar Coast between the Dutch and the local population. During the late 17th century when the VOC (Dutch East India Company) controlled trade along the Malabar coast, the former Dutch governor Hendrik van Reede tot Drakenstein collaborated with local doctors, botanists, translators and artisans to produce the Hortus Malabaricus. Printed in Amsterdam between 1678-1693, it is a 12-volume work illustrating around 700 indigenous plants that explains their medicinal properties, with captions in 5 different languages. It was originally written in Latin and in 2003, it was translated into English translation by K.S. Manilal and published by Kerala University.

Many diverse publics and representatives (The Mayor, the Bishop, Hortus Malabaricus association, foreign groups of tourists) attended the opening of this exhibition and participated in this ground-breaking event.

By mapping specific traces of colonial encounters still visible today, this exhibition examines the VOC’s taking, undertakings and un-doings that still form a part of Fort Cochin’s contemporary landscape. Like the Hortus Malabaricus these video installations work beyond their depicted material; they are a compendium of local knowledge and experience ordered and extended.

Financial support: Netherlands Embassy, New Delhi, CGH Earth, Museum Beelden aan Zee, FONDS BKVB