The Wellcome collection on Euston Road shows many a wonderful exhibition for the 'incurably curious' they say.
Since November 2017 has curated "Ayruvedic Man: Encounters with Indian Medicine" an exhibition which runs for one more month to April 8th 2018.
Ayurveda translates roughly in English to 'the knowledge of long life'. The knowledge of which Dr. Paira Mall was sent in 1911 by Wellcome to gather from India for the use of the pharmaceutical giant.
It's complicated and layered story is put together in a very simply put together in a darkened room with many different types of media, photo's, film, song, and text, and you can move through the myriad of information relatively easily and without too much of a crowd.
|Dr. Paira Mall|
Correspondence shows however Dr. Mall faced issues with financing from Wellcome, and disappears from the archives it seems, possibly and every freelancer will attest to this, because he asked to be paid once too often.
Some of the language used in the letters and the way that he is described comes over as condescending on occasion. The feeling is conveyed that while Dr Mall was valuable in his own way, the rich white men in the Wellcome office saw him as a means to an end.
This exhibition also highlighted, that although Ayurvedic medicine has been around for many years, it has been stripped of it's holistic approach to treating patients when translated to Western medicine to fit in with 'new age' principles. Again this perspective that Indian medicine is simply meant to 'fit in' with western ideology, even beyond colonialism.
Ayurveda looks at chakras, personality type, diet and suchlike before moving onto prescribing medications. Practitioners also attributed some types of disease to Gods and Goddesses, western colonial influences used derogatory terms to discredit this type of diagnosis, but it seems they were more than happy to accept the medication that worked very well.
Thie exhibition blurb says itself that it raises questions about who owns medical heritage, and what's appropriate here, and in one of the videos a bushman describes how he must share the knowledge, for it isn't everyone that can afford to take a car to the city hospital.
Much has been lost in the teachings of Ayurvedic Medicine which is passed from generation to generation in the old fashioned way of simply imparting knowledge and age old texts thrown away because the holders had unwittingly known what they contained.
In the exhibit the point was made people are just looking for one tablet and a quick fix to cure them nowadays, rather than the longer process of healing that was highly effective and kept the person as a whole treated, rather than one ailment.
|Dr.Rukhma Rai 1864-1955 (First) female Dr in India|
I walked away from this exhibition wondering how far we've really moved from colonialism.
How much the rich and powerful may well treat a person of difference to themselves poorly and with deference unless they are personally of value to them and their riches.
But mostly how sad it is so much is lost to Indians and the generations that come of ancient healing practices in favour of modern medicine.
Hopefully the questions and debate will continue given the Wellcome has created a bold enough exhibition; even if the mainstream press have ignored the painful sting of racism and colonial barbarity and possibly greed in their reviews of this exhibition.
Galleries closed Mondays, Events with panels, debates and discussions on these issues continue here.