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Tarun Khanna speaks to a crowd at the Dhaka Arts Summit.

Meena Hewett, Executive Director of the South Asia Institute (SAI), and Tarun Khanna, Director, SAI, and Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School, attended the Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) last week, the world’s largest non-commercial platform for South Asian art.

The event, held from February 5 to 8 at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, served as a platform to bring together over 300 artists, curators, writers, and art professionals for exhibitions, lectures, film screenings, and panel discussions about art in the subcontinent.

Meena Hewett spoke to a crowd in the Rewind exhibit area about how SAI’s mission of serving as a platform to bring people together to discuss issues critical to South Asia is similar to the goal of the Summit. SAI recently launched its Arts Program, which aims to connect faculty, students, institutions, art experts, and administrators interested in South Asian art.

SAI’s Visiting Artist Program brings up-and-coming artists from South Asia to Harvard for 2 weeks to participate in discourse with students and faculty on critical issues. In the fall, SAI hosted Indian artist Ranjit Kandalgaonkar, who draws upon contemporary visual arts media, archival documentation and historical artifacts to document, represent and critique urban flows, and Pakistani artist Basir Mahmood, whose work weaves together various threads of thoughts, findings, and insights into poetic sequences and narratives.

Tarun Khanna spoke about the importance of arts and humanities to address critical issues in South Asia. His fall course ‘Contemporary Developing Countries: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Social and Economic Problems’ encouraged students to develop innovative solutions to social problems, and featured modules on health, education, technology, urban planning, and arts and the humanities. A central idea of the course was that no problem can be solved with just one lens or discipline – even studying art can help entrepreneurs come up with creative solutions.

The event is put on by the Samdani Art Foundation, led by Rajeeb and Nadia Samdani, who are members of SAI’s Arts Advisory Council, and curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt.

“I found the Dhaka Art Summit to be a uniquely revealing window into the region’s extraordinarily complex socio-ecological landscape,” said Hewett about the event. “The artists from the region and the cultural leaders of Bangladesh are to be admired for convening so contextually rich a selection of South Asia’s most expressive two and three-dimensional work that attracted visitors worldwide to come to Dhaka.”