Hybridity in the colonial arts of South India, 16th–18th centuries

Simona Cohen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines the multiplicity of styles and heterogeneity of the arts created on the southern coasts of India during the period of colonial rule. Diverging from the trajectory of numerous studies that underline biased and distorted conceptions of India promoted in European and Indian literary sources, I examine ways in which Indian cultural traditions and religious beliefs found substantial expression in visual arts that were ostensibly geared to reinforce Christian worship and colonial ideology. This investigation is divided into two parts. Following a brief overview, my initial focus will be on Indo-Portuguese polychrome woodcarvings executed by local artisans for churches in the areas of Goa and Kerala on the Malabar coast. I will then relate to Portuguese religious strategies reflected in south Indian churches, involving the destruction of Hindu temples and images and their replacement with Catholic equivalents, inadvertently contributing to the survival of indigenous beliefs and recuperation of the Hindu monuments they replaced.

Original languageEnglish
Article number684
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Colonial art
  • Goan art
  • Hybridity
  • Indo-Portuguese art
  • South India


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