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Institute of Advanced Study

Maharaja presents public sculpture to Durham

(25 November 2009)

Vessels of Life

His Highness the Maharaja of Baroda, Ranjitsinh Gaekwad, formally unveiled his public sculpture ‘Vessels of Life’ in Durham today (Wednesday, November 25, 2009). The sculpture, commissioned by Durham University as a piece of public art, will be positioned permanently in the Botanic Garden amongst the garden’s oriental collection.

The design for the sculpture has been inspired by the University’s Institute of Advanced Study’s 2009-10 ‘water’ theme, which has been generously sponsored by Northumbrian Water. Entitled ‘Vessels of Life’, Ranjitsinh has created a sculpture that captures his current concerns over humankind’s wastefulness of water.

“In India we have every type of problem that can be associated with water, from drought to flooding,” Ranjitsinh explains.

“The creatures represented on the sculpture are all in danger of extinction. They rely on water for their existence and humans need to be aware that they have a responsibility to preserve water not only for themselves but for all creatures on this planet.”

The sculpture is 12 feet high and comprises eight water carrying pots one on top of the other, growing out of a lotus and embellished with plants, flowers, birds, fish and animals. At the bottom, perhaps the most significant addition is a single tap which is there simply to remind us how much we take the availability of safe, clean drinking water for granted.

Louise Hunter, Northumbrian Water’s Head of Corporate Responsibility, said: “In this country we are fortunate. We can turn on the tap and take it for granted that safe drinking water will flow – but for millions of people elsewhere in the world access to clean drinking water is a matter of life and death.

“Water is vital for health and a precious resource that should be fully appreciated and not be wasted.

“We are privileged and proud to be able to see the work of the Maharaja bring that message to life in a special sculpture to celebrate the University’s Institute of Advanced Study’s ‘water theme’ for 2009-10.”

The Maharaja is currently a Distinguished Fellow and artist in residence at the Institute of Advanced Study, and also a Fellow of Grey College during his 10 week stay in Durham with the Maharani. The Maharaja has a long-term link with Grey College, which includes a successful exhibition of his paintings at the College in 2002 and gifted two large oil paintings which are now part of the College’s permanent collection.

The Maharaja’s visit to Durham on this occasion has been the result of a successful visit by the Vice-Chancellor from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in October 2008. Durham University and MSU Baroda signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop and build research links between the two universities, particularly in the areas of archaeology and anthropology. MSU Baroda are also very interested in the work of Durham University’s Institute for Hazard and Risk Research and the Maharaja will be exploring ways in which the two universities can collaborate, particularly over issues concerning water and risk.

Ranjitsinh Gaekwad is a distinguished artist with a long career. Born in 1938 he holds a graduate and a postgraduate degree in Fine Arts from the renowned Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. In 1959-60 he worked at the prestigious Royal Academy of Arts where he benefited greatly from the guidance of renowned British artists such as late Peter Greenham and Charles Mahoney and where he won several awards, including the David Murray Scholarship for landscape painting. His most recent exhibition was at the Indar Pasricha Fine Arts Gallery in London in June, entitled “Goats and Kings and other such things”. This exhibition displayed a wide range of his drawings and oil paintings as well as individual sculptures.

Photographs of the unveiling ceremony available at: