In 2002, a young boy was walking along the coastline of Fort Kochi when something caught his eye. He discovered a rectangular stone with colonial inscriptions which led him to the structural remains of an ancient Gothic column (a base) near an old Chinese fishing net. Just being a student, taking action to preserve it or finding out more was beyond him. The next day, he set out again to find her, but the colonial stone was missing. However, nearly two decades later, he rediscovered the column which, it turns out, was part of India’s first European colonial fort.
The boy grew up to be the famous artist and licensed art collector Raigon Stanley, who also occasionally dabbles in archaeological anthropology and artistic investigation. The 34-year-old said: âI have always been fascinated by the ancient history of my hometown, Fort Kochi. I searched for pristine areas on the map, looking for important relics and material remains of cultures. I was a passionate explorer of history and art, I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be an artist and an explorer.
Dig deeper: Experts observe that excavation is underway
This fascination with ancient history led him to a thousand stories about Fort Kochi. His voice drips with fascination as he tells the stories ancestors shared about the old forts, churches, cultures and ghosts of the old town. Growing up, he remembers wishing for more information about the past outside of the history books. He also noticed that some of the books told misleading stories about Kochi’s history and without any physical evidence to back them up, this would easily lead to misinterpretations. For him, only a museum devoted exclusively to this history could clear things up. Thus, he created the Gray Book Museum and Archives in 2016.
The Gray Book is a small private museum that houses some of the finest secrets and stories of ancient and contemporary Kochi. Licensed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), it was built on the vision of bringing artefacts, archival photographs, negatives and Old Master prints that represent the history of Fort Kochi and the Indian culture to the attention of the public. It is located in a 17th century museum which on its own represents the charming medieval architecture they represent.
PATH: A medieval map of Cochin by the Portuguese cartographer
To uncover the structural remains of the colonial fort, Raigon had teamed up with historians, environmentalists, environmentalists and researchers. The stone artifacts were the remains of Fort Emmanuel and the Cathedral of Santa Cruz. Today, he is working with a team of experts and scientists on a project to visually recreate the interiors of Santa Cruz Cathedral and Fort Gates. Mineralogists and restorers of medieval cathedrals also joined in the effort to try to find the stone quarry and the techniques that were used to build it in the 1500s.
Raigon’s mission is now to preserve and protect the cultural heritage of the âforgotten old town of Cochinâ. He says: âPeople are very proud of their local history, but don’t always express how much they appreciate a place until it is threatened. Kochi’s heritage buildings and monuments are vandalized in the name of artistic events, such as graffiti on old artillery and heritage buildings, and demolished by unethical development projects. After the colonial period, many important cultural artifacts were sold by antique dealers in Jew Town, nationally and internationally.
HISTORY CONFERENCES: Images of the new find inside the Indo-Portuguese Museum
He continues: âThe biggest problem of all is quite simply human negligence, the inability to act when heritage is in danger. Regulations alone cannot preserve culture. more productive economic use or must meet greater social needs. Yet these arguments generally ignore the simple fact that wealth is an economic asset which, when properly managed, can generate continuous streams of income.
âThe history of Fort Kochi has been misinterpreted by historians and plundered by the antiquarians of the Jewish town,â laments Raigon, âThey simply wrote the story without looking at the proper evidence. Archaeological evidence is very important when you document history. Important relics have been here for 500 years and no one has shown any interest in preserving them. We have lost 95% of the historical evidence because of this and what remains must be preserved very carefully for the next generation. I am on a mission to protect these important historic sites for the good of my homeland. “