Statue stolen by MacKenzie Art Gallery namesake returning to India
REGINA -- A statue originally stolen by the Mackenzie Art Gallery’s namesake is on its way home to India, more-than 100 years after it was taken.
The “Annapoorna” statue went through an official repatriation process on Thursday as it makes its way back to India.
The statue was part of the University of Regina’s collection at the MacKenzie Art Gallery through a longstanding partnership dating back to the early 1950s.
While going through the gallery, permanent collection artist Divya Mehra discovered the statue was wrongfully taken over a century ago, as part of the original 1936 bequest by Norman MacKenzie.
Documents written by MacKenzie indicated the statue was taken from Banares, India in 1913, while he was there.
On Thursday, Dr. Thomas Chase, Interim President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Regina and Ajay Bisaria, High Commissioner of India, held an official repatriation of the statue over Zoom.
Chase said the university has a responsibility to right the historical wrongs in an attempt to overcome the legacy of colonialism.
“Repatriating this statue does not atone for the wrong that was done a century ago, but it is an appropriate and important act today. I am thankful to the MacKenzie Art Gallery, the Indian High Commission, and the Department of Canadian Heritage for their roles in making it possible,” Chase said in a news release.
Alex King, the curator of the school’s President’s Art Collection, said the repatriation of this statue is part of an ongoing conversation among museums worldwide.
"The repatriation of the Annapoorna is part of a global, long-overdue conversation in which museums seek to address harmful and continuing imperial legacies built into, sometimes, the very foundations of their collections. As stewards of cultural heritage, our responsibility to act respectfully and ethically is fundamental, as is the willingness to look critically at our own institutional histories,” King said.
“Today, we conduct due diligence on the provenance of incoming artwork but will take steps to review objects that have been in our care before such standards were commonplace."
After reading about the discovery of the stolen statue, both the Indian High Commission in Ottawa and the Department of Canadian Heritage reached out and offered to assist with the repatriation.