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An Indian Washing the Baby

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An Indian Washing the Baby

A film on a charming, 'unofficial' subject - authentic ethnographic record or exotica for western eyes?

Non-Fiction 1906 2 mins

Overview

What appears to be a traditional baby massage is the subject of this nicely-shot film, which sits uneasily somewhere between ethnography and exotica. A woman sits on a low coir cot, legs outstretched, bathing an infant splayed on her shins, while another pours copious amounts of water on his head and back. The woman treats the bawling baby rather ruthlessly, places him supine on her legs, then prone, then stretches his limbs. The bath, in an open courtyard, is clearly set up for the camera.

The film feels artificial and orchestrated, so Westerners could amuse themselves with the primitive bathing rituals of native Mowglis. Produced by the Walturdaw Company, it was one of a number of subjects around India the company announced in its catalogue for 1906, including A Native Street in India, which is also available on BFI Player. Most of the others, sadly, are believed lost. Meenakshi Shedde