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Rubbing Colonialism at Surat Cemeteries

In 2017, Zenab Bastawala visited the British, Dutch and Armenian cemeteries known as Alampanah and Gulam Falia. The colonials impress the natives by constructing enormous ornamental mausoleums—around 300 to 400—at the respective cemeteries. The earliest grave is dated circa 1649. Each grave allows a discussion of the origins of the cemetery, the chronology of the tombs and the identity and status of the dead. The British, Dutch, and Armenian cemeteries are located within a short distance of Katargam Gate, Katargam, Surat, and Gujarat, India. These graves are beautifully carved in English, Dutch, and Armenian; using the Latin and Armenian scripts. The calligraphy and typography communicate the monumental inscriptions with rustic capitals, uncials, half-uncials, chancery hand, bastarda, and cursive Italian styles. Additionally, ornamental patterns of flowers and animals are used as motifs of angels and demons, and are maintained under the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India). The majority of these monuments are showing signs of severe decay, with marble slabs crumbling, leading to them being removed or stolen. Bastawala decided to take action to conserve them by maintaining the physical stones and documenting the inscriptions and cataloguing their text locations—a very time-consuming process—and begin by cleaning the slab with water, then estampaging on paper. This paper will then be preserved by scanning the document or photograph to build a digitized archive online that’s accessible to a larger audience and increasing the utility of this collection. In addition, Bastawala will be creating a library of inscribed letterforms as typefaces or font families.


Zenab Bastawala

Lecturer Srishti Manipal Institute of Art Design and Technology

Zenab Bastawala is an educator, typographer, and sign collector. She acquired a Bachelor’s Degree in visual communication design from Swinburne University, and a Master’s Degree in typeface design from the University of Reading. Bastawala teaches at the Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design, and Technology in Bangalore, India. Here, she founded Thinking Letterforms, a letterpress print lab, where she conducts workshops on the theory and practice of typography and typesetting. Bastawala has particular interests in Indian archives and experimental tools used to create Indic letterforms that have visual texture and contemporary interpretation of traditional.