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Curator and Contributors

Dentist, Environmental Activist & Toda Community Activist
Author and Photographer
Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru

Date & Time

Fri, 23 Feb 2024 10:00 am Mon, 26 Feb 2024 8:00 pm


7, 4th Main Road, Domlur II Stage
Bengaluru, Karnataka 560 071 India


Exhibition Opening: Friday, 23 February 2024, 5:30 pm
Exhibition on show until Monday, 26 February 2024
Timings: 10 am to 8 pm

Walkthroughs with the Contributors
23 February, Friday, 5:30 pm
24 February, Saturday, 11:30 am and 6:00 pm
25 February, Sunday, 11:30 am and 6:00 pm
26 February, Monday, 6:00 pm

An annotated collection of over 300 photographs of the Nilgiri mountains, the exhibition tells the story of its ancient geological and ecological history, the fascinating indigenous tribes who lived for hundreds of years in harmony with the mountains, until the colonists arrived in the early 19th century and transformed the landscape ecologically, architecturally and culturally. As the hill station prospered, it attracted people from all over the subcontinent, making the Nilgiris the most multicultural district in Tamil Nadu today. 

With photographs taken by colonial era photographers and ethnographers to contemporary chroniclers, the exhibition is a rich visual story of South India’s most picturesque hill station. 

Curated by Jenny Pinto, the photographs have been sourced from collections around the world as well as from family albums in the Nilgiris, and contributions by Dr. Tarun Chhabra, Vasanth Bosco, Ramya Reddy and Sharada Srinivasan. There is a special section on the photographs of Albert TW Penn, an English photographer who lived in the Nilgiris from 1865 to 1924, from the archives of his great grandson, Christopher Penn. 

On Friday, February 23rd, at 7 pm, there will be a book discussion at the BIC of a volume titled The Nilgiri Hills: A Kaleidoscope of People, Culture and Nature that includes contributors to the exhibition.

Image Credits
Thumbnail: Photo by A T W Penn from the archives of Christopher Penn
Header and Posters: Photo by Shawn Stephen

This exhibition was commissioned by the Ooty Literary Festival in 2023 and produced by TNMAI (the Nilgiri Mountain Arts Initiative).

In collaboration with the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS-TCS Heritage Initiative)


Curator and Contributors

Jenny Pinto


Jenny Pinto is a film maker, lighting designer, papermaker and occasional writer. She founded a lighting design company OORJAA, based in Bangalore, that uses waste and weeds as raw material. 

She has been a regular visitor to the Nilgiris for over 20 years and moved there recently. She was quite disturbed at the rapid changes and environmental decline she saw that have come to the hills over the years. She curated this exhibition for the Ooty Literary Festival in 2023, for the people of the Nilgiris, because she believes that knowing and understanding all aspects of a place is key to preserving its natural and cultural heritage.

Tarun Chhabra

Dentist, Environmental Activist & Toda Community Activist

Tarun Chhabra, dentist by profession in Ootacumund, is an environmental activist and also an activist for the Toda community and Founding Trustee of Toda Nalavaazhvu Sangam. He is perhaps at present one of the rare outsiders to speak the Toda language fluently and has written articles and given talks on unique aspects of Toda culture and ethnobotany.  In 2003, he established an environmental NGO called Edhkwehlynawd Botanical Refuge Trust which works on ecological restoration in the Nilgiris and the Toda heartland.  He is author of The Toda Landscape: Explorations in Cultural Ecology (2015, Harvard University Press) and contributor to The Nilgiri Hills edited by Paul Hockings published by Orient Blackswan in 2023.

Vasanth Bosco


Vasanth Bosco is the Founder and Lead Restoration Ecologist at Upstream Ecology. He has been working to help restore the ecology of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve for nearly 12 years. Vasanth set up one of the first shola-grassland nurseries in South India, and the first grassland restoration effort in the Nilgiris. Close to a 100 species of rare, native and endemic plants are grown and propagated in the restoration programs. Over 400 acres of land are under various stages of being restored. Vasanth is an interdisciplinary researcher and an inventor and holds two patents in the field of alternative technology. Vasanth is also the Co-founder of Iyarka, a plant-based research company. His book, Voice of a Sentient Highland, is the culmination of nine years of interdisciplinary research about the unique ecology of the Nilgiri biosphere. Vasanth is also a singer-song writer about nature and reconnecting to the environment. He lives in Ooty.

Ramya Reddy

Author and Photographer

Ramya Reddy is a visual storyteller with a rich background in professional photography, spanning over fifteen years. Her experience encompasses collaborations with various lifestyle and hospitality brands, and her work has been showcased in numerous publications and exhibitions. In her book Soul of the Nilgiris, she encapsulates a nine-year exploration into the indigenous communities of the Nilgiris. This critically acclaimed work weaves together oral narratives, conversations, writings and photographs, painting a vivid portrait of the region. She founded Coonoor&Co, drawing inspiration from the beauty of the mountains and the mindful lifestyle they embody. While the mountains remain a central muse, her stories also resonate with universal themes of slow living, sustainability and interconnectedness. She is actively involved in rejuvenating the unique art forms of the Nilgiri indigenous communities, innovating and upskilling local artisans to adapt their craft for contemporary appeal.  She lives between Bangalore and Coonoor.

Sharada Srinivasan

Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru

Sharada Srinivasan is Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru (NIAS) specialising in Archaeological Sciences, Archaeometallurgy and Technical Art History. Also a contributor to the The Nilgiri Hills volume, she has published articles over the years on  material culture in the Nilgiris in international journals such as Materials and Manufacturing Processes and Journal of Historical Metallurgy. She is a recipient of the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) Woman Engineer of the Year (Academia) 2021 for her researches  uncovering early high-tin bronzes including from the Nilgiris and was elected as International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2021. She is Co-Investigator in the Nilgiri Archaeological Project, a recent collaboration between Ghent University and NIAS. She received the Padmashri in Archaeology in 2019. The books and volumes she has contributed to include Digital HampiEcstasy of Classical ArtPerformance at the Urban PeripheryIndia’s Legendary Wootz Steel, Re-envisioning Siva Nataraja and others.