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Blog: Matchboxes from the Subcontinent

April 21

Matchboxes from the Subcontinent

English expat Matt Lee shares his extensive collection of matchboxes from India where he coordinates the Foundation Art & Design program and lectures in the Visual Communication program at the Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology in Bangalore.

I moved from London to Bangalore, South India in January 2007 to lecture graphic arts at a school of art & design here. Since then I have collected over 160 matchboxes from my various travels around India.

Due to their economical and disposable nature, matchboxes are extremely popular here, far more so than cigarette lighters, and can be found at any roadside food/tea stall or cigarette kiosk. It was never really a conscious decision to start collecting them. I think the first matchbox I found was a design that featured an illustration of a killer whale with a title that read ‘dolphin’, I found this ‘mistake’ quite humorous. My first connection with these matchboxes was that aside from being great designs, they seemed quite random and they made me smile.

As the collection grew I began to enjoy their diversity more, it became a great thrill to find new designs. I also began to find the juxtapositions between the Indian matchboxes interesting. The diversity of the visuals, placed side by side on a shelf create interesting and often humorous juxtapositions. For example a swastik design resides next to a birthday cake, a tube light design next to an Indian elephant, or sometimes even narrative, such as a lion matchbox watching the cyclist matchbox…

For me, as an outsider, these matchboxes really encapsulate the visual (overload) culture of a modern Indian city like Bangalore. The mix of visual juxtapositions that range from historical and religious iconography to contemporary Indian and appropriated western (often copyrighted) imagery sum up quite perfectly what it is like to live in Bangalore. ...

The whole interview with Matt Lee, you can read in Blog

If you like these, he also started documenting the fanciful world of the macho-mustache men and flirtatious women found in Kannada film posters.

Posted by serge, April 21, 2009. Post has 0 comments.
Bangalore collector design India matchbox


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