Season 1, CHATROOM 16

Decolonizing a Maharajah

How to decolonize museums and a Maharajah. Frederike Voigt, a curator at the National Museums Scotland, explains how she enabled artists from the margins to retell the story of their Maharajah. She’s been on a decade-long quest to investigate and restore the histories to objects in the museum that speak of colonization. In this episode, we learn of two paintings of Maharajah Duleep Singh, the last King of the Sikh Empire, by artists from vastly different backgrounds.


Time Markers (min:sec)

  • 00:02 – Painting of Maharajah Duleep Singh
  • 01:13 – What the episode is about
  • 01:47 – The “Casualty of War” painting
  • 02:05 – Who is Friederike Voigt?
  • 02:31 – The Maharajah’s objects at the National Museums Scotland
  • 03:15 – The Maharajah’s backstory
  • 04:25 – A mismatch between labels and reality
  • 05:20 – Friederike invites marginal voices to comment
  • 05:37 – Giving objects a new life
  • 06:12 – Who are The Singh Twins?
  • 07:42 – Symbols in the painting
  • 08:38 – The tension of identity
  • 09:30 – Inviting young Sikhs to learn their histories
  • 11:09 – Another painting of Maharajah Duleep Singh

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Reading List

Voigt, Friederike. Mementoes of Power and Conquest: Sikh Jewellery in the Collection of National Museums Scotland. Manchester University Press, 2020.,

Voigt, Friederike, et al. “‘Panjab Connections’: A Young Roots Heritage Project at the National Museums Scotland.” Journal of Museum Ethnography, no. 30, 2017, pp. 24–48.

“Casualty of War: A Portrait of Maharaja Duleep Singh.” National Museums Scotland,

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