The Mackenzie Art Gallery in Canada returned a statue stolen from an 18th century century shrine in India after an artist unraveled its related circumstances. The statue originated from a shrine located in India over 100 years ago, which the museum acquired in 1936 as part of a collection bequeathed by a benefactor named Norman Mackenzie.
Canadian artist Divya Mehra, discovered the statue’s origins while doing a research of the MacKenzie collection in preparation for her exhibition captioned as “From India to Canada and Back to India.” Through her research she was able to identify the stone statue as the depiction of the Hindu goddess of food, Annapoorna.
Based on the title, it seems that Ms. Mehra already had an inkling that it was the same statue that went missing after a Canadian lawyer named Norman MacKenzie was reported to have looted an active temple during his trip to Varanasi in 1913. However, the lawyer had mistakenly identified the statue as the god Vishnu and not Annapoorna.
According to Mehra, the adventure of Indiana Jones were based on the stories told by Edgar James Banks, who turned out to be a close friend of the lawyer-art collector Norman MacKenzie.
In 1936 MacKenzie died leaving a last will and testament, which included bequeathing his art collection to the University of Regina. The university in turn built the MacKenzie Art Gallery to house the collection, among them the stolen stone statue mislabeled as an image of Vishnu. .
The Statue’s Repatriation to India
In light of Ms. Mehra’s discovery, the art museum through the University of Regina will be returning the statue of Annaporna back to India at an unspecified future date in light of the still ongoing global pandemic. Still, a virtual repatriation ceremony was held last November 19, 2020 as the university underscored the importance of doing what is right to correct historical wrongs in order to take part in undoing the harmful consequences of colonialism.
To show her appreciation of the university’s cooperation in returning the stolen statue to India, Ms. Mehra offered the Mckenzie Art Gallery one of her sculptures as replacement for the returned statue The donated piece is among the sculptures in exhibit at the MacKenzie Art Gallery museum received a sculpture by Mehra that is included in her exhibition as a replacement, where her concept made use of a scene from an Raiders of the Lost Ark; the part where Indiana Jones stole a golden idol by replacing its weight with a bag of sand.
In a statement of John Hampton, the museum’s acting chief executive said that in light of Ms. Mehra’s discovery, they have started to conduct a research on all the other art works included in MacKenzie’s collection. So far a few of those examined are also due for repatriation. Mr. Hampton gave a promise that the museum will do everything in its power to return art works that have been acquired through improper means.