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Omar Khan | Paper Jewels: Postcards from the Raj

Vintage postcards from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka (1892 to 1947).

5:00 pm | 9/10/2019 | 10 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley | Until 5:00 pm | 9/10/2019

Speaker: Omar Khan, Author, Distinguished scholar, & San Francisco based historian. Moderator: Asma Kazmi, Assistant Professor, Department of Art Practice.

Sponsors: Institute for South Asia Studies, Sarah Kailath Chair of India Studies, South Asia Art Initiative, Department of History of Art, Department of Comparative Literature, Department of Art Practice.

A presentation by distinguished scholar and San Francisco based historian, Omar Khan, on his new publication Paper Jewels: Postcards from the Raj, a visual tour of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka through 500 vintage postcards (1892 to 1947).

About the Book: Postcards were the Instagram of their age. The world went from thousands to billions of image postcards exchanged in a handful of years; they were the beginning of the “picture-mad” age we live in today. They were the first color images of the world circulated on a mass stage, and are increasingly being seen by scholars as a unique window into the past, depicting things in contexts absent in other mediums like photography. Paper Jewels, the book and slide talk, are about how these images developed and took root in India, from the first India-themed postcards as early as 1892, through their role in the Independence struggle through 1947. It uncovers the earliest “Greetings from India” postcards in the late 1890s, such gems as the early postcards by the Indian artist M.V. Dhurandhar and The Ravi Varma Press, and some of the best artist-signed postcards of India by Western and India-based artists. We explore how Indians quickly made the medium their own, so that postcards are far more complex than merely a colonial or Orientalist tool; attention is also paid to the many technical, business, political and other factors that contributed to the ‘Golden Age of Postcards’ between 1895 and 1915. The book and talk are based almost entirely on primary research in archives and collections all over the world. The postcards shared are largely from the author’s own collection which has taken some thirty years to amass.

Speaker Bio: Omar Khan grew up in Vienna, Austria and Islamabad, Pakistan and is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Columbia and Stanford universities. He has researched early photography and ephemera of the subcontinent for thirty years and collects the early postcards featured here. He is an avid historian and award-winning web designer. Omar Khan’s previous book is From Kashmir to Kabul: The Photographs of John Burke and William Baker 1860-1900 (Prestel/Gallimard/Mapin, 2002).

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