Purvai celebrates the rich South Asian cultural heritage that is now an integral part of the Hebrides and Scotland today.
The inspiration for the project is Colonel Colin Mackenzie, the first Surveyor General of India and collector extraordinaire. Mackenzie was born in Stornoway in 1754, a stone’s throw away from where An Lanntair stands today. Arriving in India at the age of 29 as an officer in the Madras Engineers, Mackenzie was captivated by the cultures of India, he spent the rest of his life travelling exploring, surveying and documenting the ancient Cultures, arts, architecture, mythology and natural history of India.
‘Purvai’ – meaning warm wind from the East – aims to connect the people of the Hebrides with India and The Mackenzie Collection; unlocking its potential as ‘the largest and oldest extant archive to be gathered by a single European… recognised as one of the most important archival sources in existence about the late pre-colonial periods of Indian History’.
The project will involve working collaboratively with the research community, volunteers and the local people of Stornoway and the Hebrides to undertake in depth research into the Colin Mackenzie Collection.
Purvai also aims to give artistic opportunities, providing the platform for ambitious creative projects that articulate and are heir to Mackenzie’s intrepid curiosity; splicing cultures, innovative, active, relevant, alive and present.
2014 Artist Exchange
An Lanntair was enabled in 2014 by Creative Scotland’s International Research Fund to map an ambitious cultural journey across the subcontinent for Hebridean Artists. Selected artists were Sculptor Steve Dilworth and musician/composer Iain Morrison who travelled to India with Purvai Curator Catherine Maclean and An Lanntair’s Head of Visual Art Roddy Murray.
2016 Purvai Festival
The first artistic output of Purvai was an innovative, experimental musical and audio-visual collaboration. B.L.O.T. The Delhi based Club Duo were An Lanntair’s first guest artists to travel from India to the Hebrides. BLOT! and Iain Morrison spent a week working collaboratively on the re–imagining and re-presenting the compelling, ancient sound of Scottish Ceòl Mòr. What emerged was an extraordinary mix of electronica, dance beats and kaleidoscopic imagery.
2017 Purvai Festival
The largest of Purvai’s project to date, 2017 saw another vibrant Purvai festival at An Lanntair the first the first ever exhibition of the ‘Mackenzie Collection’ funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and in partnership with Museum nan Eilean. You can read a full press release about the project here and watch the trailer video below.
The signature event of the 2017 festival was a new music commission entitled Yatra, meaning journey. Yatra was also a key event as part of Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017. The commission told the journey of Mackenzie from the Hebrides to India through a confluence of Gaelic vocal traditions and Indian Rag will be performed to audiences in India. You can see a short film of the performance below.