Monthly Archives: November 2009

Creative Review: Indian Matchbox Monograph


For Creative Review Magazine subscribers, this December’s Monograph features around 20 pages of my Indian matchbox collection. Here is some text I have written for the introduction.

Matchboxes from the Subcontinent. Walking around Bangalore city where I live you will come across matchboxes everywhere. Cheap and disposable, they litter the highways and footpaths, and are scattered around any roadside chai stall, cigarette kiosk or dhaba.

The first matchbox I came across featured an illustration of a killer whale with a caption that read ‘dolphin’. I found this inaccuracy quite amusing. My first connection with these matchboxes was that aside from being great designs, they seemed quite random and they made me smile.

In my travels across India I have collected over 250 matchboxes. Each design has come to signify a personal memory. Collectively, the visible scars of the battered boxes tell a story, mapping the places I have been, the people I have met and the experiences I have had.

The visuals that adorn this collection include historical and religious iconography, Indian pop culture, appropriated western imagery, mundane objects, and various animals. For me, as an outsider, the disparate juxtapositions created through this series of designs have come to encapsulate quite perfectly the heterogeneous and hybrid visual culture of modern India.