Taken together with its companion piece General Sahib (Nick Gifford, 1976), this forms an unforgettable documentary portrait of curious lives from the days of the Raj. The first deals with Gifford's three uncles, all Boer expatriates, who run a taxidermy business in India. With patient elaboration, a picture of a time-warped Imperial past emerges alongside the personal details. Sepia photographs of polo and pig-sticking compare with Uncle Joubert's contemporary sporting life - duck-shooting or fishing from the same hide coracle that he has used for forty years. Few words, the images speak for themselves. General Sahib follows the daily duties of a retired Major-General (MC) from the Indian Army who runs a hospital for lepers, mental cases and children - poor creatures who have lost their bodies and minds and wander in the other world of sickness. The bristling, leonine General is also seen visiting his old military barracks at Poona, and indulging in a chukka of polo. His manner does not change, he still has a word for everyone. A slightly unnerving reminder that compassion is not necessarily excluded from the military cast of mind, although its expression may appear rather odd. Two great portraits of anachronism. CPea.
You may also like