• Published 28.10.17

Having made Gujarat their home in the seventh century, the Parsis arrived in Calcutta circa 1839 to trade in opium and cotton. Today, the estimated Parsi population in the city is around 500 and if you want to get a glimpse of the life and times of this Zoroastrian community since they had set sail from Iran for India, the Olpadvala Memorial Trust Hall is your destination till Sunday, 10am to 8pm.

Threads of Continuity: An Exhibition of Zoroastrian Life and Culture is on at the community hall on Chowringhee Road, bringing together artefacts, literature, photographs, textiles and other heritage objects that reflect the story of the Zoroastrians, their history, philosophy and culture as preserved till date by a dwindling number of Parsis spread across the globe.

Organised by the Calcutta Zoroastrian Community’s Religious and Charity Fund in association with the Parzor Foundation, the exhibition also has a section where you can pick up Parsi handcrafted items and feast on a range of dishes typical of any traditional Parsi kitchen.

What: Threads of Continuity: An Exhibition of Zoroastrian Life and Culture

Where: Olpadvala Memorial Trust Hall, 52 Chowringhee Road

On till: October 29, 10am to 8pm


French artist, counsellor to Cartier and scion of the illustrious Van Cleef family that were jewellers to the Czars, Olaf Van Cleef is back in Calcutta with a new series of paintings — an extension of his series of unique bejewelled watercolours inspired heavily by religious motifs from the Hindu pantheon in India, the country that holds a special place in this Frenchman’s heart.

With his spectacles perched on his head, a dapper Olaf greeted t2 with a big smile at Taj Bengal, which has been his usual address during his annual visits for 27 years now. Armed with affability and a sense of humour, he more than makes up for his accent francais in English as he explains his art with contagious enthusiasm.

“Calcutta holds a special place in my heart and you, your culture, buildings and gods inspire me,” Olaf explained as he took a select few around The Chambers at Taj Bengal for a preview of an exhibition of his works that will be held at the Alipore star hotel on November 3.

A mix of his framed and unframed works, priced between Rs 25,000 and Rs 2,00,000, will be on display, the proceeds of which will fund the Van Cleef Hall in Vaithikuppam, Puducherry where budding cash-strapped artists get to display their works for free.

Olaf’s works comprise acrylic deities painted against cross-cultural backdrops — from a Ganesha playing the mridangam perched on a tree to a watercolour Krishna surrounded by butterflies — using Swarovski crystals, chocolat wrappers and painstaking pointillism.

“I miss the Ambassador cars in the city. They are so few of them now! I loved incorporating them into my paintings,” Olaf mused while recounting his rendezvous with Calcutta. And indeed the city with its sweat and dirt, its Victoria Memorial and ambassadors — or the lack thereof — have been recurring themes in his body of works.

“I want to keep coming back to the city to find inspiration, not as a tourist but as a traveller,” Olaf signed off, pulling down his spectacles from his head. 

Text: Anannya Sarkar
Pictures: Pabitra Das