The Durbar Hall and its grounds are in the heart of the city, near Kochi’s main railway station Ernakulam South. Built in the 1850s by the Maharaja of Cochin to host his Royal court, the Durbar Hall has had many incarnations over its 150 year history. Recent extensive renovation works by the Kochi Biennale Foundation have transformed the present Durbar Hall gallery into an international museum quality exhibition venue.
'Untitled (ZVC)' is based on the engraving of an 1898 Portuguese painting depicting Vasco da Gama’s meeting with the Zamorin of Calicut. The diptych made up of 'Untitled (KC) 1' and 'Untitled (KC) 2' shows 11th century gold coins of the Kilwa Sultanate in East Africa that were recovered along with coins of the Dutch East India Company from Marchinbar Islands in Northern Australia. As Boyd points out, Gama had extorted a tribute of gold coins from the King of Kilwa while en route to the Malabar Coast on his second voyage. The coins thus form a possible link that connects India’s Western Coast to the indigenous Yolngu people of Northern Australia through the transactional network of colonialism.
Towers made of these stamps issued by India, Pakistan and Bangladesh form the core of Mohaiemen’s installation at the biennale. They are poignant reminders of a figure whose voice now lies lost in the no-man’s-land between national appropriations, trampled on by the very divisive ideologies he raged against.
In it, Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama, whose arrival in Malabar in the 15th century inaugurated the European scramble for India, looks across a mappa mundi (a medieval hand-drawn map of the world) at a young Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi contemplating the demise of the British Raj in the 20th century.