Ancient House Museum Thetford : Duleep Singh
Duleep Singh Exhibition 7 July to 1 December 2018
Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life
Including the opportunity to view the Casualty of War: Portrait of Maharaja Duleep Singh by The Singh Twins
An extraordinary painting recording the life and death of Maharajah Duleep Singh by renowned British contemporary artists, The Singh Twins, is coming to Thetford’s Ancient House Museum as the centrepiece of a new exhibition marking the 125th anniversary of his death.
On loan from National Museums Scotland, the colourful painting, entitled The Casualty of War, is a fascinating examination of the two cultures – British and Punjabi – which shaped the life of Duleep Singh, the last Sikh ruler of the Punjab who lived at Elveden Hall. The Singh Twins themselves will attend the launch of the exhibition on Saturday 7th July.
The exhibition (7th July – 1st December) is part of a major cultural festival, The Festival of Thetford and Punjab (7th – 21st July) supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, celebrating and exploring the story of Duleep Singh and his legacy and the wider cultural links between the town and the Punjab.
Dr Satinder Sartaaj, Punjabi Sufi singer, songwriter, composer, poet and actor, who played the role of Maharajah Duleep Singh in the film ‘The Black Prince’ said:
“It is a great honour for me to be the Patron for the Festival of Thetford & Punjab. I have been interested in the subject and had the opportunity to play the lead role of the Maharajah in the feature film The Black Prince which was released last year. I visited the graves of Duleep Singh and his family at Elveden, the Ancient House Museum and the statue on Butten Island in Thetford, Norfolk. I also carried out in depth research into the life of the Maharajah and his family which supported me in delivering my role with precision and authenticity. I hope the Festival of Thetford & Punjab will further highlight interest in the story of Duleep Singh and attract more people to attend the historical sites in Elveden and Thetford for generations to come, to pay homage and remind us not only of the turbulent life of Maharajah Duleep Singh but also the most enjoyable and memorable times of his life which were spent here. I wish the Festival of Thetford & Punjab every success.”
Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF East of England, said: “We are delighted to support this project, which will bring to life the story of Duleep Singh and the role the Punjab played in shaping the culture and heritage of Thetford. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, this heritage will be celebrated and shared with even more people.”
Alongside their exhibition, Ancient House Museum is hosting a packed schedule of events as part of the Festival, including special free family event days, talks and a fantastic finale!
Families are invited to special free event days on Saturday 7th July, Saturday 14th July and Saturday 21st July. On 7th July the focus will be the fascinating lives of the Maharajah’s children - discover the role Princess Sophia and Princess Catherine played in the campaign to secure Votes for Women, find out about Prince Frederick and Princess Sophia’s work during the First World War and learn about museum’s special link with the family.
On Saturday 14th July visitors can discover the extraordinary life of the Maharajah himself. Both events offer a chance to meet costumed characters and handle real historical objects from the time, with activities for all the family. Throughout the festival there is the opportunity to “Spot the Khanda” (a symbol of Sikhism) – this family friendly trail includes an opportunity to win a small prize for just 50p.
On Thursday 12th July Fraser Harrison, author of newly released Duleep Singh’s Statue, will be giving a talk exploring the many intricate aspects of the Casualty of War painting. He will show how the painting pictorially tells the story of Duleep Singh’s life, and will compare the painting with the modern bronze equestrian statue of the Maharajah on Butten Island.
Harrison said: “The painting shows Duleep Singh in all his jewelled finery, but it is also a densely patterned collection of incidents and symbols, which amounts to a pictorial biography of the Maharajah. The picture is full of references to his childhood in India after he was deprived of his throne in 1849, and his exile in England, where he lived for much of his adulthood in Elveden Hall. It is a kind of charge sheet showing the many injustices that the Singh Twins believe Duleep Singh suffered at the hands of the British government of his day, including the forced surrender of the Koh-i-noor diamond.”
On Thursday 19th July Parmjit Singh will speak about ‘Faces from a Lost Empire: Photographing the Court and Camp of Maharajah Ranjit Singh’. Parmjit Singh, co-founder of the UK Punjab Heritage Association will present a remarkable collection of 19th Century photographic portraits and studies of people, places and events that helped to create a golden age for the empire of the Sikhs.
Also on the 19th July, Ancient House Knit and Knatter group will welcome a group from the Gura Nanak Durbar Guardwara Day Centre in Gravesend - part two of a textiles cultural exchange that saw the Ancient House Knit and Knatter group visit the Guardwara in May. The two groups have been sharing their different skills and a joint textile piece will be on display at Ancient House during the Festival.
The finale of the Festival Programme on Saturday 21st July will see the museum opening its doors for free all day. History Club members (aged 6 to 11 years) are offering a Takeover Tour from 10.30am until 11.30am (free event but booking required).
The Festival will finish on a high in the evening from 8.00pm until 10.00pm with a Z List Dead List comedy night with Iszi Lawrence from BBC Radio 4’s Making History, British Museum Membercast and Z List Dead List. She will be joined by guest ‘Historian’ Doug Segal, as seen on BBC 1’s New Year’s Eve show and at the Latitude and Green Man festivals, to discuss forgotten people from history, including Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, the Maharajah’s pioneering suffragette daughter.
Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Festival of Thetford and Punjab, which runs from 7th – 21st July, is led by the Essex Cultural Diversity Project and involves partners including Norfolk Library Service, Norfolk Arts Service and Thetford Town Council alongside Ancient House Museum. Together they have been working on a 14-month project, culminating in the Festival, which involves local communities, artists and performers inspired by Duleep Singh, his family, the political and cultural context of the time he was living, and how this has influenced Thetford and the surrounding area today. For full details of the Festival programme visit: http://essexcdp.com/event/ftap/
Duleep Singh Special Exhibition
7th July – 3rd December 2018
Included with museum admission (please note museum free admission days below)
Family Special Event Days
Saturday 7 July and Saturday 14 July
10.00am until 5.00pm
Saturday 21 July
History Club tour 10.30-11.30am
Tour free but booking essential
Fraser Harrison, Casualty of War – Casualty of Peace
Thursday 12 July
11.00am and 2.30pm.
Talk free but early booking essential
Paramjit Singh, Empire of the Sikhs
Thursday 19 July
Talk free but early booking essential
Festival Finale and Z List Dead List Comedy Night
Saturday 21 July
Tickets £10 or £5 for Friends of Ancient House and Norfolk Museums Pass Holders Booking essential
For further information please contact Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life on 01842 752599 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For tickets contact the Festival Box Office, 01842 751975, 07802701911 or visit www.leapinghare.org
Notes to Editors
He came to Britain, was befriended by Queen Victoria and settled into family life at Elveden Hall, near Thetford. In time however unhappiness over his treatment led him to rebel against the British authorities. His plans led to nothing and he died a broken man.
Duleep Singh’s second son, Prince Frederick was the founder of the Ancient House Museum. He lived at Blo Norton Hall, near Thetford and took a keen interest in local history amassing a fine collection of books, paintings, prints and archives.
In style the painting draws on the long Indian miniaturist tradition with its use of minutely observed details and jewel-like colours, but uses a larger scale.19th century Indian miniaturist traditions are included in the Duleep Singh exhibition.
Ancient House Museum
Oliver Bone, Curator at Ancient House Museum said:
“We are delighted to be able to show the brilliant ‘Casualty of War: A Portrait of Maharaja Duleep Singh’ painting by The Singh Twins at the Ancient House Museum as part of our Duleep Singh Special exhibition. We are very grateful to National Museums Scotland for permitting the loan and really pleased that The Singh Twins themselves are able to join us for the launch of the Thetford and Punjab festival.”
Cllr. John Ward, Chair of Norfolk County Council Joint Museums Committee said: “We’re delighted that Norfolk Museums Service – along with Norfolk Libraries Service and Norfolk Arts Service – is a partner in this exciting venture. Ancient House Museum, Thetford – one of ten in our County-wide Service – was founded by Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Maharajah Duleep Singh’s second son. For many years the Museum has actively explored this link with the family and Sikh and Punjab culture. The Festival and new exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to further celebrate this fascinating aspect of Thetford’s past.”