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News Category: Arts at SAI


Visiting Artist Profile: Milan Rai


Visiting Artist Milan Rai’s White Butterflies installation on the spiral staircase of CGIS South

  

Milan Rai is a Nepali artist whose media span painting, installation, and artistic intervention. Rai came to The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University, in Spring 2016 as part of the Visiting Artist Fellowship (VAF). You can read more about Milan’s work here.

The application deadline for the 2018-2019 Mittal Institute Visiting Artist Fellowship is July 16th, 2018. Read more about the fellowship and how to apply here.

 

How was your experience as a Visiting Artist at the Mittal Institute?

In 2016, the Visiting Artist Fellowship was ten days long and a unique experience. I had the opportunity to install my White Butterflies project in the beautiful spiral staircase in the Center for Government and International Studies (CGIS). While at Harvard, I attended classes, including a course on Muslim Literature and one on Buddhism at the Harvard Divinity School. Some other highlights of my time at Harvard include conversing with fascinating people and spending time engaging with the incredible campus flora.

 

Has attending the VAF at The Mittal Institute influenced your art practice?

The VAF inspired me to apply to more art residencies and fellowships. I had realized the potential of such programs and the impact they have on my art practice. Therefore, I kept applying! Despite receiving both acceptance and rejection letters, the VAF helped me to become more confident and determined.

After returning from the VAF, I also noticed a shift in people’s perception of me. People in Kathmandu were curious about how a high school dropout could make it to Harvard! I began to receive invitations to speak about my work at colleges and universities, which was a powerful platform for me to tell my story to young people.  

 

Catch us up on what you have been doing since your visit at Harvard.

Currently, I am working on a project about air pollution in Kathmandu.  I started to wear gas masks to protests and eventually made my way into government buildings where the masks became a way to start important conversations. My goal with this project is to see an impact on policy implementation. For this project, I have assumed the role of a activist and have incorporated social media to tell the evolving story of this artwork. One outcome of this project is that we are now in the planning phases of creating a public green space in Kathmandu and Lalitpur.

I am also working on another project related to tree guards in the Bouddha area. Currently, the tree guards are used primarily as surfaces for commercial advertisements. My goal is to design aesthetically pleasing sculptures that tell the personal narratives of people living in the city in order to beautify and humanize this public space.

 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Indian Miniature Painting Demonstration with Murad Mumtaz Khan


[HAA184x Painting of India] Learning through Practice: Indian Miniature Painting Workshop with Artist and Art Historian Murad Mumtaz

Materials Lab, Harvard Art Museums, April 6, 2018

 

 

As part of her Painting in India Course (HAA184x Painting of India), Professor Jinah Kim, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University; and Faculty Director of the Arts at the Mittal Institute, organized a demonstration and workshop by artist and art historian Murad Mumtaz Khan. The course explored the history of Indian painting based on the collections of Harvard Art Museums and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. As part of the course, Professor Kim organized several materials lab sessions at the Harvard Art Museums during which time students learned about techniques and materials first hand by making.

 

Thanks to – Francesca Bewer, Alexandra Gaydos, Penley Knipe, Harvard Art Museums Materials Lab, Dept. History of Art & Architecture, The Mittal Institute, Amy Johnson, and Emma Fitzgerald

Video by Amy Johnson

Videography by Emma Fitzgerald

Q+A: Building Relationships as a Documentary Photographer


 

 

. He recently gave a presentation titled “Cha Chakra: Tea Tales of Bangladesh,” chaired by Professor Sugata Bose with commentary by Curator Alison Nordström, in which he displayed his long-term documentary photography research project on tea industry. The project sheds light on the plight of the tea garden workers of Bangladesh who are among the lowest paid and most vulnerable laborers in the world, yet are strangely invisible to the global media. Currently, the project concentrates on labor rights and conditions within Bangladesh’s tea industry, which are a direct result of a long history of colonialism and oppression. This project aims to collect the undocumented history of the global tea industry through photography, oral histories, and archival materials.

 

His other ongoing projects include Rohingya: The Stateless People, The Fantasy Is More Filmic than Fictional: Bangladesh Film Industry and Life in Progress: People Living with HIV.

 

Before his return to Bangladesh, we talked with him about his art practice and time here at Harvard.

 

What experiences motivated you to work on themes surrounding social justice?

I work with various art mediums to explore what is happening around the world. When I was a University student, I was looking for avenues to express my thoughts about what was happening around me. During that time, I worked on films, documentaries and was involved in different cultural movements.  I realized that photography was the best medium to express both my individual views as well as speak about the experiences of larger groups of people. 

I started working on social justice issues as a journalist. For instance, I first went to the Tea Gardens on an assignment to cover the tea workers’ movement. I soon realized that the plight of the tea workers is a deeply rooted issue that the media cannot adequately cover in a few journalistic reports, so I decided to work on the project long-term.

 

What has been your approach to photographing your subjects?

The logical approach is to spend time with the people I photograph. For example, I stayed in the Tea Gardens with the workers for many days. I talked to them and got to know their stories. I believe that collecting testimonies and oral histories are an important part of the work. One challenge is that people will always see me as “other” because I see them from outside, and vice versa.

 

What are some of the strategies that you use to connect to your subjects?

As a student, I studied research methods. However, over time I have developed an intuitive approach. For example, I drink tea with the tea workers to spend time with them and get to know them. My intention is not to intervene in their lives, but rather to talk to them and invite them to ask me what I want and why I am there. It is important for me to become friends with the people I work with because otherwise, it is tough to get stories from people. As a storyteller, I believe everybody has a story to tell, however, collecting the stories is not always easy. People have to trust me and that requires time to build the relationship.

 

What is the rationale behind having multiple ongoing projects?

For me, as a documentary photographer, it is important to work on subjects for a longer period. I see most of my works as long-term projects. It is tough to wrap up a story within a short span of time.

 

What has been your experience at Harvard?

It has been an incredible opportunity to be able to access Harvard’s library and museum resources as a researcher and to dig deeper into my studies. It is difficult for me to access comparable archives and libraries as a freelancer. Additionally, Cambridge is a cosmopolitan area where I have met people from different areas of the world. It has been fascinating and helpful for my journey as an artist.

 

How did your seminar go?

The seminar brought together people from different professions as well as students, faculty, and representatives from the Bangladeshi community. Even the person I am subletting from came! It was inspiring to present my work in front of such a diverse audience. The audience was asking incisive questions, so it was a very good learning experience for me. It was a collective effort to organize the seminar, and I am grateful to Professor Sugata Bose, Curator Alison Nordstrom, Aniket De (Ph.D. student in history) and the Mittal Institute staff.

 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

-Amy Johnson

Art Exhibition Puts a Spotlight on South Asian Narratives


Attendees enjoy the exhibit during the opening reception.

Picture 1 of 10

 

On April 17, 2018, The Mittal Institute hosted an opening reception and seminar for the exhibition, “Revelations: Reclaiming South Asian Narratives.” By exhibiting pieces from this year’s Visiting Artists, the show aims to unravel challenging social issues that often fall outside the limelight. This year’s artists explore themes related to The Mittal Institute’s larger research projects, including the relationship between memory and history of Partition. Furthermore, attendees were able to see art focusing on tea workers in Bangladesh, trauma, and healing in Nepal, and Dalit resistance in India.

 

 

This year’s Visiting Artists are: 

Imran Channa, Pakistan

Rajyashri Goody, India

Kabi Raj Lama, Nepal

Faiham Ebna Sharif, Bangladesh

 

The exhibition will run through May 10th and is located in the CGIS concourse. 

SAI Hosts Four Artists from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and India


 

SAI is pleased to announce our 2018 Visiting Artists, who will be at Harvard from mid-March to mid-May. During their time at Harvard, the artists will display their work on campus, meet with students, attend courses, and give public seminars.

Check back on our site for details about the seminars and exhibition.

 

Imran Channa, Pakistan

Imran Channa’s art practice interrogates the intersection between power and knowledge. His primary focus is on the documentation and dissemination of historical narratives and events. He explores how fabricated narratives can override our collective memory to shape individual and social consciousness and alter human responses. His work draws attention to the instruments of documentation, highlighting how photography, archeology, and literature record, frame and manufacture history. He is interested in how these modes pervert knowledge and the construction of consciousness.

Images of the 1947 partition of Pakistan and India are the central motifs of his practice. He reworks historical images to forge new narratives, relocate historical truth, and interrogate the influence of subjectivity. Photographs are often the only ways of retracing the past for subsequent generations who did not experience events first-hand. They are paradoxical — containing the capacity to understand fact as well as create fiction.

 

Rajyashri Goody, India and England

Rajyashri Goody’s art practice revolves around the complexities of identity seen through the lens of larger social, political, economic, and religious structures at play, and consequently the tug between power and resistance that manifests itself within minority communities. Her interests lie within the interpretation of caste in India, particularly the strengthening voice of Dalit resistance since the 1920s. Caste-based discrimination is still very much alive in both urban and rural India, with crimes against Dalits such as rape, murder, beatings, and violence related to land matters committed approximately every 18 minutes. Yet, as Sharmila Rege put it, there is an “‘official forgetting’ of histories of caste oppression, struggles, and resistance.”

Goody’s aim as an artist is to contest this “official forgetting” by drawing out both political and personal Dalit narratives and weaving them together to reflect upon everyday acts of resistance in the current sociopolitical climate of India. Her artworks, whether they take the form of installations, photography, or more recently, text and ceramics, often result from a series of conversations and interviews. One of her ongoing projects incorporates Dalit autobiographies, which contain vivid and complex descriptions of food, cooking, eating, and hunger. She highlights and recycles their extracts on food to create “recipes” from their own words, compiling a cookbook of sorts as an ode to everyday resistance and an act of resistance itself against “official forgetting.”

 

Kabi Raj Lama, Nepal

Kabi Raj Lama is a contemporary printmaker based in Kathmandu, who primarily works with lithography and the Japanese mokuhanga (woodcut) medium. His work examines themes of natural disasters, trauma, and religion. Lama sees the complexities of natural disasters as multidimensional — affecting both tangible and intangible worlds.

Kabi’s exhibition, “From Kathmandu to Tokyo” in 2014 reveals the trauma of his experience in Japan where he witnessed and lived through the catastrophic tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. The artist’s decision to work with woodcut medium on traditional Lokta paper served as a cathartic experience. The motifs in this series were inspired by the wreckage and havoc created by the tsunami, as well as the Fukushima radiation that destroyed cities, and took away uncountable lives on land and sea.

In 2016, Kabi Raj was away from his home at residencies in Germany and China, when the Great Earthquakes struck Nepal in 2015. The earthquakes killed 8,686, injured 16,808, rendered thousands homeless, and leveled heritage monuments and places of worship. Kabi’s prints made while in Germany and China are poignant narratives of memory and loss. His work explores what the earthquakes destroyed as well as what they revealed. One source of inspiration for Lama was the hidden sculptures from the inner sanctums of Kasthamandap, which the earthquake exposed to the public when the building came down. For one of Lama’s ongoing projects, he recently traveled to the Everest Region in an effort to capture the moment of the earthquake at the world highest peak. He prepared and carved wooden boards from which he has created several editions of prints.

 

Faiham Ebra Sharif, Bangladesh

Faiham Ebra Sharif is a freelance multimedia journalist and photographer, who has several years of experience working as a reporter, newsroom editor and presenter in national electronic media. Sharif’s areas of research include colonialism, climate change, ethnic minorities, film, human rights, indigenous people, labor rights, migration, popular culture, refugees, Rohingya crisis, sports, tea industry and underprivileged children. He is involved with different cultural and political movements. Through his visual narratives and journalism, Sharif explores the lived-experiences of marginalized people both in South Asia and globally.

His current project, Cha Chakra: Tea Tales of Bangladesh sheds light on the plight of the tea garden workers of Bangladesh who are among the lowest paid and most vulnerable laborers in the world yet are strangely invisible to the global media. Currently, the project concentrates on labor rights and conditions within Bangladesh’s tea industry, which are a direct result of a long history of colonialism and oppression. This project aims to collect the undocumented history of the global tea industry through photography, oral histories, and archival materials. While at Harvard, Sharif plans to continue his archival research and collect materials related to the global tea industry from Harvard’s libraries and museums. He will also photograph the tea culture in USA and spread awareness about the phenomenon though public events and publications.

Other ongoing projects include Rohingya: The Stateless People, The Fantasy Is More Filmic than Fictional: Bangladesh Film Industry and Life in Progress: People Living with HIV.

 

 

American Council for Southern Asian Art Symposium XVIII


ACSAA Symposium web banner

October 12 – October 15, 2017

Harvard South Asia Institute is proud to co-sponsor the biennial American Council for Southern Asian Art Symposium. ACSAA symposia serve as opportunities to meet colleagues, reconnect with mentors and graduate school cohorts, and share one’s current research with the field. From senior scholars to graduate students, ACSAA symposia are one of the primary ways ACSAA members gather and support one another, share ideas with a group of like-minded colleagues, and participate in the ACSAA community. We are looking forward to welcoming you all in Boston/Cambridge, MA!

ACSAA 2017 Organizers

Jinah Kim, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art & Architecture
Laura Weinstein, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy curator of South Asian and Islamic Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

About the ACSAA

The American Council for Southern Asian Art (ACSAA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the study and awareness of the art of South and Southeast Asia and the Himalayan regions. In addition to periodic symposia, usually held every two years, ACSAA pursues these goals through various projects, including its annual bulletin, bibliographies, a color slide project, a microfiche archive and outreach materials. Since its incorporation in 1967, ACSAA has grown from its original fifteen members to an organization of some three hundred individuals and institutions. ACSAA is formally affiliated with the College Art Association (CAA) and the Association of Asian Studies (AAS).

 

For more information about this conference, please visit our website: https://mittalsouthasiainstitute.harvard.edu/acsaa2017/

2017 SAI Symposium: Arts Panel [VIDEO]


Our fantastic arts panel at the 2017 Symposium featured:

Shahzia Sikander: A Pakistani-born visual artist – trained in Pakistan and New England – who challenges the strict formal tropes of miniature painting as well as its medium-based restrictions by experimenting with scale and media. She received a MacArthur “Genius” Grant in 2006.

Shanay Javeri: Assistant Curator of South Asian Art at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is a graduate of Brown University, where he studied art semiotics and history of art. He completed his doctorate at the Royal College of Art in London, specializing in South Asian art.

Homi Bhabha: Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature and Language, and the Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University.

“The Social Texture of an Artist” – reflections on the 2017 SAI Mahindra Lecture


By Rajna Swaminathan, PhD candidate, Department of Music, Harvard University

In his Mahindra Lecture earlier this month, vocalist T.M. Krishna presented his philosophy on the possibilities for art to break through social habits and boundaries. Drawing on his experience as a person from a privileged background and rising to fame in the Carnatic music scene, Krishna illustrated the ways in which music led him from the personal to the public and political, advocating a spirit of questioning that is uncommon to most classical art forms. Focusing on aesthetics as a site of precipitation for the social, Krishna led those of us who identify as artists to ask: Are we really being creative? Or do we take creativity for granted, conditioning our minds along certain paths, and being very comfortable through all of it?

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(L-R) Homi Bhabha, Rajna Swaminathan, TM Krishna, Vijay Iyer

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Livelihood Creation Profile: Craftizen Foundation


This is part of a series in which we will profile organizations in India who received a Social Innovation grant through the SAI/Tata Trusts project on Livelihood Creation.

thumbnail_CRAFTIZEN ARTISANS IN ODISHA

Craftizen artisans in Odisha

ORGANIZATION DETAILS 

LEADERSHIP

  • Mayura Balasubramanian, Founder and CEO

VISION, MISSION AND BROAD OBJECTIVES 

Vision

To preserve and evolve Indian craft skills so they remain an integral part of our cultural fabric.

Mission

To provide business acumen support to craft groups to enable sustainable livelihoods for Indian artisans.

Broad Objectives

  • Enabling structured, long-term development support to craft groups
  • Building capacity and capability of craft-based organizations to help them scale
  • Reviving patronage of crafts through large scale, sustained interventions
  • Providing market-driven strategies to craft groups
  • Facilitating design development to enhance functionality of craft products

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