Each year, the Mittal Institute welcomes four Visiting Artist Fellows from South Asia to its Cambridge office for eight weeks, connecting them to Harvard University’s vast wealth of intellectual resources. With the applications now open for the Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 fellowships and due July 1, 2019, mid-career visual artists from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives, or Sri Lanka have the opportunity to perform research at Harvard and interact with faculty and students, exploring critical issues in South Asia through the lens of art and design.
What Is the Visiting Artist Fellowship?
Under faculty director Jinah Kim, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art & Architecture at Harvard University, the visiting artists are given access to Harvard’s extensive physical and digital libraries and archives, as well as the Harvard Museums, and have the opportunity to give a seminar on campus and exhibit their work. Our Spring 2019 Visiting Artist Fellows — Krupa Makhija and Mahboob Jokhio —worked with and received valuable guidance from prestigious Harvard faculty, including Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at the Harvard Divinity School, and Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.
A member of the Mittal Institute’s Arts Council, Shanay Jhaveri — Assistant Curator of South Asia, Modern and Contemporary Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — explains the value of the opportunity for South Asian artists, bringing them to Harvard to work with experts as they develop their work. “The core of the program is to provide opportunity to the artists, to experience a context other than their own,” he said at the Mittal Institute’s Annual Cambridge Symposium in April 2019. “There aren’t many other residency programs that provide access to leading academic voices in the field, and that makes it quite distinct from others.”
Reflecting on the Fellowship
During the Spring 2019 session, Visiting Artist Krupa Makhija, from India, delved into the Mittal Institute’s research into the 1947 Partition of British India. Makhija, the first generation of her family to be born in post-Partition India, grew up hearing stories about the Partition, highlighting the legacy that the event continues to leave on new generations.
At the Mittal Institute, Makhija worked with faculty to continue her artistic focus on the Partition and her Sindhi culture. “As an artist, I believe that art can’t change society — but it can do good. It can provoke some issues. I think I’m doing that; I’m trying to raise questions that are completely ignored,” she says. On her time as a fellow, Makhija reflected warmly on her experience. “The most important and exciting thing about working and researching at Harvard is the way I could get in touch with some important professors, like Diana Eck, through classes — and I had interesting conversations with Professor Jinah Kim. Now, they are guiding me not only for my projects at Harvard, but also for my overall art practice,” she said.
Mahboob Jokhio also arrived for the Spring 2019 session, all the way from Pakistan. His exploration into the visual arts was originally inspired by his artistic family members, and now ranges from photography to video to massive concrete structures, with a deep symbolism behind each work that comments on a multitude of issues that South Asia currently faces. An art exhibition coordinated by the Mittal Institute displayed the work of both Spring 2019 fellows, and became the inspiration behind Jokhio’s new artistic direction after meeting a community member and learning about her life in Karachi through stories and photos. “Her oral memoirs and photographs channeled my research interests toward a direction that I never had thought of,” he says.
Jokhio’s time as a fellow at the Mittal Institute was rooted in his deep appreciation for new experiences, places, and people. “I have always believed that the city and the people you meet tend to leave their impression on you for a long period of time. It adds to your experience as a person, and, for me, as a maker,” he says.
Coming to Cambridge, the Visiting Artist Fellows work closely with the Mittal Institute’s Arts Program Manager, Sneha Shrestha, a prolific artist whose murals inspired by her Nepali background boldly stand out along buildings in the Boston and Cambridge city scenes. Her artwork throughout the city — and around the world — is meant to inspire conversation and interest around her culture, utilizing Sanskrit calligraphy.
The Visiting Artists have the opportunity to leverage Shrestha’s experience, drawing inspiration from her vast range of work, from her show Mindful Mandalas at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to her enchanting murals that dot the city’s streets. “My works are site-specific, so I spend a lot of time in that space before I paint the mural because I want to see how people interact with that space, I want to see what goes on there, and then design it according to that,” Shrestha says. “I want to create conversation pieces, activate that space [in the city] even more, and share a universal message with people.”
Does the Visiting Artist Fellowship sound like the perfect opportunity for you to build on your artwork and gain new inspiration? Learn more about the fellowship program here, and be sure to apply before it’s too late!
The deadline to apply for the Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 fellowship semesters is July 1, 2019 at 11:59 PM EST.
The Visiting Artist Fellowship is made possible with the generous support of the Dean of the Division of Social Science’s Donald T. Regan Lecture Fund and the Mittal Institute’s Arts Council members.