Bharti Lalwani is a perfumer and art critic. She trained as an artist at Central St. Martin's College of Art and Design in London and later as a critic with a special focus on Southeast Asia at The Sotheby's Institute of Art in Singapore. Having spent over twenty years of her life in Lagos, Nigeria, Bharti has moved across several countries and career paths. In 2017, she became a pioneering independent perfumer in an otherwise male dominated, close-knit industry of distillers, aroma chemical traders and attar-wallahs in South Asia. Upon further experimentation and research she found that her training as an art critic equipped her with sharp insights and ability to produce original work within an old, stagnant and mainly Euro-centric field. She established Litrahb Perfumery in 2018 as an extension of her artistic practice.
Nicolas Roth received a BA in Sanskrit and Indian Studies and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and a PhD in South Asian Studies from Harvard University. His dissertation focuses on the garden culture and horticultural writings of Mughal India from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, drawing on a range of textual genres in Sanskrit, Persian, and various forms of Urdu and Hindi as well as visual sources found in painting and other art forms. In addition to working on turning the dissertation into a book, he has recently written on the representation of architecture in Urdu poetry and is embarking on a new major project on Indo-Persian inshā or epistolary prose. As part of the latter, he is particularly interested in the functioning of inshā collections as a literary genre in its own right, and their representations of and relationship to various aspects of material culture.
Perfumer and Historian bring to Life
Historic Paintings through Scent
‘Bagh-e Hind’ is an exhibition conceptualised around the olfactory landscape of Mughal-era South Asia. The first of its kind, this multidisciplinary exhibition is the result of a collaboration between art critic and perfumer Bharti Lalwani (India) and historian and literary scholar Nicolas Roth (USA). Roth, a specialist in Mughal-era horticultural writings, made deliberate selections of five paintings depicting garden scenes from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for Lalwani to translate into fragrance and Edible Perfume™ .
The select images illustrate the splendour of the time in painterly details of rose bushes as far as the eye can see, narcissus stems delicately held by courtly gentlemen, a stunning fireworks display, irises within a formal garden-scape, and a discreet lover’s spot decorated with a bed of flowers amid a lush forest. The selected paintings, while in the public domain of digitised collections belonging to institutions outside of South Asia, have not been shown together, much less contextualised with scent.
A partnership across continents, Bharti and Nicolas dream of a world where fragrance is profoundly embedded in the way gardens are experienced, represented, and understood. Bagh-e Hind invites audiences to take pleasure in the aesthetic constructions of each painting - to saturate their senses in order to reimagine new dimensions of love, abundance and pleasure.