NIAS Public Lecture (NIAS – TCS Heritage Initiative): "The Career of Clay in the Deccan" by Dr. Susan S. Bean, Lecture Hall, NIAS, 1600hrs

National Institute of Advanced Studies

Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bengaluru 560012


Invites you to a Public Lecture under the

NIAS – TCS Heritage Initiative




Dr. Susan S. Bean

Independent Scholar and Curator

Chair, Art & Archaeology Center, American Institute of Indian Studies, Gurugram




“The Career of Clay in the Deccan” 


Date:               Wednesday, 9th January 2019

Time:               4:00 PM (Coffee/Tea at 3.30 PM)

Venue:             Lecture Hall, NIAS

Introduction:   Professor Carol Upadhya, NIAS

Chair:               Professor Sharada Srinivasan, NIAS, Anchor, NIAS-TCS Heritage Initiative


Abstract: Figural forms in raw, unfired clay (terracruda), from Ganesh murtī in the Deccan, to Durga pratima in Bengal and Buddhist jim ku in Bhutan, have been a presence across southern Asia for millennia, yet unfired clay sculpture has attracted little notice in the literature on the region's art. In this presentation I take a long view of raw clay sculpture in the Deccan, focusing on the particular materiality of clay to open fresh thinking about the role of clay in art practice. Moving away from what clay is, to considering what it does, foregrounds raw clay’s penchant to transform between plasticity, solidity, fragmentation and liquidity, and its ability to support life. In the Deccan archaeological evidence from the second millennium BCE indicates that clay’s ready plasticity enabled unskilled hands to make figurines for domestic rituals. In the historical period, legendary histories of the Deccan, and practices attributed to Shivaji's reign, center on the generative power of clay/earth. In the seventeenth century, clay's plasticity was crucial to Maratha rulers as they redeployed the annual Ganapati Chaturthi from family observance to state occasion. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, sculptors again turned to clay for its plasticity to adapt western naturalistic realism, and at the turn of the twentieth century they contributed new iconographies for Ganesh suited to nationalist aspirations.


About the Speaker: Susan S. Bean, Ph.D. is an independent scholar and curator specializing in the visual arts of modern South Asia. Currently she serves as chair of the Art & Archaeology Center of the American Institute of Indian Studies in Gurugram, India. She is an Associate of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. She was senior curator for South Asian and Korean art at the Peabody Essex Museum.


The NIAS-TCS Heritage Initiative aims to explore the interdisciplinary interface between science, society, and culture through the lens of heritage. Its recent focus has been studying artisanal technologies and metal crafts of South India.


* * * * * * * *


All are cordially invited

Thursday, January 3, 2019