An Lanntair wins lottery cash to launch first Colin Mackenzie Collection exhibition

Items from the collection will be exhibited at Museum nan Eilean at Lews Castle, from August 11 until November 18.

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Stornoway arts centre An Lanntair has been awarded £59,900 to host the first exhibition of the Colin Mackenzie Collection, 196 years after his death.

Funding was given by the Heritage Lottery Fund to deliver the project which will see the exhibition and a vibrant arts festival, Purvai, run at An Lanntair this August, celebrating the Hebrides’ South Asian heritage links and Scotland’s 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology celebrations.

The Mackenzie Collection is the oldest and largest collection of ancient South Asian art, collected by Colin Mackenzie from Stornoway.
Born in 1754, Colonel Mackenzie left the Hebrides for India in 1783.

He led a remarkable life, culminating in becoming the First Surveyor General of All India in 1815, travelling the subcontinent and building an extraordinary collection of objects.

The collection comprises a range of material, including figures intricately carved in stone, thousands of drawings and sketches from across India and Java depicting ancient monuments, people and customs, maps, coins, and old and precious palm leaf manuscripts.

Items from the collection will be on loan from the British Museum, The British Library and the V&A, and exhibited at Museum nan Eilean at Lews Castle, opening on August 11 and running throughout the autumn until November 18.

Nick Smith, heritage manager at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: ‘It is extraordinary to think that this important collection has never been shown in Stornoway, Colin Mackenzie’s home town.

‘Much of Mackenzie’s possessions were purchased by the India Office Library upon his death and are now in the care of national institutions.

‘The high quality exhibition space at Museum nan Eilean Lews Castle means we now have the opportunity to bring some of this collection to Stornoway for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike, thanks to Catherine Maclean and her colleagues at An Lanntair as well as the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.’

As well as the Mackenzie Collection exhibition, the HLF-funded project will also focus on the heritage and stories of South Asian-Hebridean families who settled in Stornoway.

An Lanntair will work with actor, director and playwright, Sudha Bhuchar and photographer and artist Arpita Shah on researching stories of South Asian Hebridean families and their journeys to Stornoway and the islands.