The Pageants of the Raj
Yatho Hastato Drishtihi
Yatho Drishtisto Manaha.
Yatho Manatato Bhavaha.
Yatho Bhavastato Rasaha.
Where the hands go, the eyes should follow.
Where the eyes go, the mind should follow.
Where the mind goes, the emotions are generated.
Where the emotions are generated, sentiment arises.
( From Abhinaya Darpana by Nandikeshwara)
Drishyam, or viewing, vachika or expressing through speech or song, and natyam or the dramatic element of performance, to my mind, make up the three aspects of performance. I speak of performance because, for a scholar following the deeply nuanced world of Indian aesthetics, the Natya Shastra is one of the most important primary texts for the understanding of traditional art practice. It is key treatise for the innate understanding of Indian art.
Creating Cross – border Connections
Consultant Editor, Concept & Theme: Dr. Alka Pande, 2016
The Pageants of the Raj at the Visual Arts Gallery 24 – 31 August by photo media artist Devangana Kumar showcased the thirty lavish luxuriant velvet scrolls work as culture bearers moving from the modernity of India’s colonial past into the landscape of a post colonial discourse. Devangana in her first solo exhibition has very meticulously culled out images from her own collection of postcards. These set of postcards themselves are repositories of the workforce in the Raj period.
She is very much the voice of a young and culturally diverse India. Global and cosmopolitan, her language and medium have a refined internationalism which is firmly rooted within the historicity of the land itself. Most of the pictures have been staged and more often than not each of the works is shown with his/her work implements. The work tools then became signifiers of identity i.e. the Abdar, whose office was to prepare water for domestic use, is photographed in his domestic regalia carrying a tray with a glass, wine and beer bottle.
Devangana Kumar has deliberately focused on “the lowest strata of society on whose shoulders the luxurious and comfortable lifestyle of a deeply hierarchal society positions itself.” By manipulating a photographic print, not an unknown practice, a still commonly used practice i.e. Photoshop. Devangana Kumar has created aesthetically beautiful portraits which not only stop us in our tracks with these beauty and scale but also in that moment starts an important discourse on identity, class representation.
Delhi Photo Festival
The biennial Delhi Photo Festival 2011, an initiative of the India Habitat Centre and Nazar Foundation, brings photography to the realm of public space to create awareness of the democratic discipline. The team of creative directors of Mr. Raj Liberhan, Dr. Alka Pande, Prashant Panjiar and Dinesh Khanna worked to offer first ever festival on photography in India. The inauguration of the festival with the talk and book launch of ‘My Journey As A Witness’ by Shahidul Alam encapsulated the euphoric moods of the participants and initiated a dialogue between many practitioners and lovers.
The two weeks festival with its wide spectrum of activities ranging from print and digital exhibitions, portfolio reviews, workshops, panel discussions to artists talks, addas, evening screenings opened a well desired platform for the dilettante and professional artists. The theme of affinity, though confined to print exhibitions, led the artists to showcase the constant engagement and participation within the workings of larger harmony. The 74 exhibitors hailing from every corner of the world added impetus to the growing debate on the photography as an art form.
In the similar vein, the morning panel discussion and afternoon artists’ talks provided food for thought only to multiply the critical vocabulary of the photography. The festival seeking to transcend the established boundaries of the discipline witnessed the participation of eclectic artists and curators, for instance: Pushpamala N., Diwan Manna, Dayanita Singh, Raghu Rai, Devika Daulat Singh, Samar Jodha, Vidur Jang Bahadur, Nitin Upadhya, Kurt Hoerbst, Prabhuddha Dasgupta, Clare Ami, Ketaki Seth, Swapan Parekh, Sohrab Hura, Sooni Tarporewala, Amit Mehra, Mahesh Bhat, Bob Hewitt, Munem Wasif, Peter Nagy, Matthieu Foss, Pramod Kumar KG, Sam Harris and Pablo Batholomew.
Salaam Baalak Trust
Salaam Baalak Trust Initiative – Curatorial Note
The street has always provided colour and excitement and the inhabitants of the Salaam Baalak Trust were ideal performers in this collaborative venture.
The Indian streets are abundant with a variety of traffic. From two wheelers to three wheeler auto rickshaws to high end cars, and heavy traffic like buses and trucks a stray cow, or an elephant walking majestically on the side is a virtual theatre of the absurd, in stark contrast to the organized streets of Singapore or the organized busy streets of London.
I invited 22 artists to work in a collaborative manner with either a child or children from the Salaam Balak trust to create a set of twin art works, one by the artists themselves and the other worked upon as a collaboration between the artist and the street children.
The 22 artists through their individual art practice have brought in a diverse set of art practices, from murals, drawings, paintings, photography to video. The engagement between the artist and the children became a dynamic one. Both inspired and enabled each other to create a fresh language which is evidenced the second completed painting. The primary work made by the artist and the second painting made by the artist and non artist developed a life and language of its own. Often the non artist led the work and the end result is a jewel of emotion.
Red Strings Through
25 to 30 November 2009 at the Experimental Art Gallery India Habitat Centre, Delhi
The renowned Swiss artist and performer Nesa Gschwend is dedicating her latest project to the women of India. She has spent the past months since July 2009 in Varanasi, India, sponsored by the Cultural Council of Swiss Cities. Her visit will conclude in December, and she has been invited by the India Habitat Centre in Delhi, with the support of the Embassy of Switzerland in India, to show her artwork to a wider Indian audience before returning to Switzerland.
Her installation and performance with objects, videos and drawings will be displayed from 25 to 30 November 2009 at the Experimental Art Gallery, India Habitat Centre in New Delhi.
Nesa Gschwend’s work focuses on the situation of women of all walks of life in India: low and high caste, poor and rich, young and old. She develops a performance, records it on video, and weaves a series of objects using fabrics that have been worn by these women: red saris. She transforms them into long red strings, and runs them through her hands – a gesture connecting her with the women she encountered during her stay, and her expression of solidarity with all women of India in search of empowerment.
Partners for this exhibition
- Alka Pande, Curator and Arts Consultant, Visual Arts Gallery at India Habitat Centre, and the VAG staff
- Florence Tinguely Mattli, Minister & Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Switzerland, Delhi
- Madhura Phatak, Cultural Programme Officer, Embassy of Switzerland, Delhi
- Lindt Chocolates of Switzerland, The Narang Group, India
- TimeOut Magazine, a Paprikamedia Publication, India
- Ernst & Olga Gubler-Hablützel Foundation, Switzerland
- The Cultural Conference of Swiss Cities, KSK, Switzerland
- Deneth Piumakshi, Regional Coordinator, Cross Culture, Delhi
- Thomas Imboden, Director, Cross Culture
CURATORIAL THOUGHTS BEHIND UNDER THE BANYAN TREE
India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.
What could be more evocative than this statement made by the American traveler more than a century ago. Contemporary India carries within its fold many histories and many Indias. Politically, India consists of 31 states, 1618 languages, 6400 castes, 6 ethnic groups, 29 festivals, plus a huge and myriad tradition of arts and crafts. The cultural diversity of the land is startling, yet India stands strong and one bound intricately with the deepest of complexity within its plural culture.
When I sit and start to think about the Wonder that was India the title of an iconic history book penned down by the English historian A. L. Basham more than eight decades ago I again feel the title is not inappropriate.
As I live in a quickly changing India, an India which is being transformed from a developing economy to one of the major drivers of the international market I too am living and facing the challenges of a global culture.
China the country which it is often compared to because of its positioning in Asia, numbers and markets, India stands out singular. For India, unlike the rest of the world, within the nation there is a deep interplay of tradition and modernity. Within the land itself I wonder if as an urban Indian can I be equally at home with rural India, spiritual India, an inner India, a tribal India with its ethnic table, digital India. Hindu India, Islamic India, Sikh India, Christian India, Buddhist India, Jain India. I could continue with more diversities but I shall leave it up to you to visualise.
Against such complexities and web of ideas, traditions, and philosophies I decided to work with the metaphor of the Banyan tree.
A more secular myth alongwith numerous other myths is that the banyan tree is named after ‘banyans’ or ‘banians’, the Hindu traders who in the past carried out their commercial exchanges sitting under the banyan tree. In fact during the last century the banyan tree became an important meeting place for many people who gathered in its shade to relax or chat.
Therefore the metaphor of The Banyan Tree appealed to me when I started creating a project which in some ways would represent to me The Wonder That is India. I selected 38 artists from different parts of the country, so that they would in some ways be able to represent the multitude vocals of the country which is so much a part of its cultural present.
I also wished to draw upon the richness of the material culture, the mediums which are both traditional like painting sculpture, printmaking and moving on to the digital which in some ways has taken birth in the land itself and is one of the main reasons for India’s soaring future, the I.T. Technology.
What for me was also very interesting and challenging was not to take the usual ‘suspects’ contemporary Indian artists who form part of important existing collected, but also introduce a segment of the next generation of artists who are younger, but can hold their own with the more mature artists who have already made their voices heard in the cacophony of contemporary art practice.
A nation of 1.17 billion people
with more than 10 British established fine art schools based on the Kensington College of Art model of the 19th century
but also a younger generation which is moving between art, craft and design, a generation of artists who have also been educated abroad, a lot of artists today are internationally much more travelled than their older colleagues and are very much part of what is a global cosmopolitanism
Indian have always had a tradition of movement, of traveling to different shores and setting down and I have also included a few artists who would be the diasporic voice in the exhibition. Living away in a home away from their land of origin the artistic engagement of artists of Indian origin provides a completeness to the story of contemporary Indian art practice.
The 38 artists in the show are well represented encompassing a variety of mediums. Abishek Hazra a new media artist based out of Bangalore, the painter Abir Karmakar, Mumbai, Antonio Puri, USA, Ayesha Kapoor-photographer, based out of New Delhi, Bandeep Singh,-Photographer, New Delhi, Baptist Coehlo Video and multi media artist, Mumbai, Gautam Bhatia architect and artist New Delhi, George Martin Painter, New Delhi, Gurdeep Singh Painter, new Delhi, Kalam Patua traditional artist from West Bengal, Kristine Michael Ceramic artist, New Delhi,-Mahua Sen, Musician, Filmaker and artist, new Delhi, Manisha Jha architect and traditional artist, New Delhi, Prajakta Potnis,Mumbai, Prajjwal Choudhary Baroda, installation, Prasad Raghavan, new Delhi, Video and Painting, Pratima Naithani New York, photographer, Remen Chopra, painte1,17r and sculptor, New Delhi, Riyas Komu painter and sculptor, Mumbai,, Sandip Pisalkar, Sculptor, Baroda, Shiv Verma, Sculptor, Baroda, Shreyas Karle, Sculptor, Baroda, Simran Mehra Agarwal, Painter, Milan, Siri Khandavilli, Intermedia artist, USA Sonia Mehra Chawla, Painter, New Delhi, Seema Kohli, Painter, New Delhi, Suhasini Kejriwal, painter, Kolkatta, Sumedh Rajendran, Sculptor, New Delhi, Sunaina Bhalla, Painter, Singapore, Suresh K Nair, muralist, Varanasi, Tarun Chabra, Photographer, New Delhi, Tarun Jung Rawat, graphic designer and artist, Vibha Gilhotra, mutli media artist, New Delhi, Viren Tanwer, painter Chandigarh Zuleikha Chaudhari, Light and performance artist. Mumbai
Ramayana Lecture Series
The India Habitat Centre, 17th March to 5th May, 2011
Ramayana Lecture Series
The India Habitat Centre in collaboration with Sahitya Akademi had presented a Series of 8 inter disciplinary lectures on “Word and Image: Ramayana and Visual Imagination in India” every Thursday from March 17, 2011 to May 5, 2011 at the India Habitat Centre. It was Conceptualized by Alok Bhalla and Co- ordinated by Dr. Alka Pande and Dr. Malashri Lal.
The names of the Speakers and their topics on Ramayana are mentioned below:
Date: March 17, 2011
Speaker: Philip Lutgendorf
Topic: Evolving a Monkey : Hanuman and Visual Imagination
Date: March 24, 2011
Speaker: Alok Bhalla
Topic: The Earth Redeemed by Strangers/ the Strangeness of the Sacred
Date: March 31, 2011
Speaker: Aman Nath
Topic: Reading Pictures: Sita in Victorian Indian Prints
Date: April 7, 2011
Speaker: Sonal Mansingh
Topic: Concept of SATI in Ramayana: with Special Reference to Anasuya
Date: April 14, 2011
Speaker: Rama Vaidyanathan
Topic: A presentation through dance on the “Comparative Study of the three Ramayanas – Valmiki, Kamban & Tulsidas”
Date: April 21, 2011
Speaker: Dr. Shormishtha Panja
Topic: Sensuous Classicism: the Ramayana through the eyes of Raja Ravi Varma
Date: April 28, 2011
Speaker: Molly Kaushal
Topic: Gond Ramayani – In Text and in Painting
May 5, 2011
Lecture and Dance Performance on Ramayana by Navtej Johar
Life Times and Legacy of Ismat and Manto
What “A writer picks up his pen only when his sensibility is hurt” – Manto
These were challenging times both pre and post independent India when Ismat Chugtai and Sadat Hasan Manto were creating a stir in the literary world with their singular signatures.
To curate a show on these two legends of modern Indian literary writings is in itself a challenge. In this intimate exhibition, the viewer is invited to get a whiff of the two legends.
I have simply tried to assemble rather than curate, an exhibition which attempts in a modest way to capture the ‘zeitgeist’ of the two writers.
Both born within a year of each other, Saadat Hasan Manto was born in 1912 in died in 1955 in Lahore. Ismat was born in 1911 in Badaun and died in Bombay in 1991.
Ismat literally startled readers with her iconoclasm of thought. The grand dame of Urdu literary fiction major works of hers were banned in SouthAsia. She was a rebel, afraid of no one, nothing and she spoke her mind unreservedly during a time when women were discouraged from involving themselves in intellectual pursuits. She had developed the markings of a feminist in the early forties even when theconcept of feminism was at its early stage in the West.Her short story, ‘Lihaf’ written two months before her marriage created quite a stir and it continues to be considered one of the most controversial works ever produced by a woman writer in the sub continent.
The two together were almost like two faces of the same coin. Both were rebels, scintillating, sensitive, fascinating, with a rare gift of fearlessness. They both went beyond what was deemed ‘correct’ and ‘genteel’, and spearheaded a literary revolution. Ismat broke barriers by exposing the prevalent patriarchal society of the times, while Manto combined psychoanalysis with human behaviour. Though a literary giant in his life time he was one of the most controversial writers as well. When it came to chronicling the collective madness that prevailed, during and after the Partition of India in 1947, no other writer comes close to the oeuvre of Saadat Hassan Manto.
The tragedy with followed Manto till his death in Pakistan in 1955 was that he was never accepted as their own in either country. In Pakistan to which he migrated in 1947 he was regarded as an Indian writer and in India as a Pakistani writer. Compared to D.H. Lawrence since he wrote on themes which were social taboos. On his writing he often commented, “If you find my stories dirty, the society you are living in is dirty. With my stories, I only expose the truth”
Both Ismat and Manto were associated with the Bombay film Industry, and each of them wrote scripts for films.
Bombay of the 1940’s and 1950’s where the two lived , their paths crossed , is a slice of their life times and legacy is what I am attempting to capture. The time when the arts, ie painting, theatre and cinema was radical, political and always provocative. It was the time when the “progressives’ laid out the charter in Bomaby. The Indian Peoples Theatre Association, the Bombay progressive artists like F. N. Souza, M. F. Hussain, Gade and Kishen Khanna broke new ground in their personal quest for freedom as Ismat and Manto did. The pain of partition too was very much in the collective consciousness particularly in Northern part of the land.
The pictures of partition as captured by Margaret Bourke White, and a re reading of the portraits of Ismat and Manto by the two contemporary artists Sidharth and Rohit Sharma help us to re fresh our minds.
The voice of the two writers is still lives as is evident through the exhibition.