In our first episode of our Art in South Asia podcast series, we sat down with Sneha Shrestha, the Mittal Institute’s Arts Program Manager, to learn more about the meaning behind her Nepali-inspired work, the most exciting art piece she’s ever worked on, and the Visiting Artist Fellowship, which brings artists from South Asia to the Mittal Institute to perform research and utilize Harvard’s resources.
Category : Arts at SAI
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.
Professor Catherine Becker of the University of Illinois, Chicago recently visited the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard to give a talk to faculty, students, and visitors. Her discussion, entitled “Propagating The Sacred: Considering Acts of Reproduction in Buddhist Sculpture in India and Sri Lanka,” brought together strains of her earlier research on the early Buddhist art of Andhra and her more recent interests in the contemporary presentation of India’s heritage sites.
Though it might have been the jetlag, my recent field trip to the Paharpur World Heritage and archaeological site in Naogaon District in northern Bangladesh did not feel like my first visit. As a second-year graduate student in the department of History of Art and Architecture, I had written a seminar paper on the vast Buddhist monastery last fall for a class on esoteric Buddhist art and had spent days hunched over site plans, maps, and photographs of the ninth-century complex.
Each year, Asia Week New York gathers the world’s best auction houses, museums, and Asian art specialists for a weeklong event celebrating the importance of Asian art and drawing a crowd of collectors and curators from all over the globe. This year, Professor Jinah Kim — Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University — and Dr. Katherine Eremin — Patricia Cornwell Senior Conservation Scientist at the Harvard Art Museums — teamed up with Christie’s to give a talk at the event, delving into their work with the color and pigments used in Indian paintings and the science behind conservation and restoration as part of the Mittal Institute’s Arts Program.
“I was born in a very literary family full of artists, poets, and writers. The art was in the blood, and then my uncle, who is also a visual artist internationally recognized, so he basically channeled my interest into visual arts. Since then I have been involved in visual arts,” says Mahbub Jokhio, one of the Mittal Institute’s newest Visiting Artist Fellows for Spring 2019.
“In 1947, British India was divided into Pakistan and India, resulting in the largest forced migration in the history of migration. Certain records say there were about three million who migrated and were displaced, but studies done at Harvard show that the numbers were much higher — about 10–13 million people. The question becomes: Who lives to tell the story?” asks Meena Sonea Hewett, Executive Director of the Mittal Institute. “Art as a medium is a great way to tell these stories, because it allows for multiple perspectives to be shared about the Partition and the feelings associated with it.”
Krupa Makhija is of the first generation of her family to be born in post-Partition India, her parents and grandparents having migrated from the Sindh Province of Pakistan during the Partition. She grew up hearing stories of the pre-Partition era, but only after high school and her art education did she become more curious about her culture, language, and identity. “Art education has created a kind of sensitivity in me, to question things about myself,” she says. Krupa takes the experiences she’s been told about from the Partition era and infuses their emotions and symbolism into her artwork to create a larger dialogue.
On December 7–8, 2018, the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University, and the Harvard Art Museums organized “TRACE: Artisanal Intelligence, Material Agency, and Ritual Technology in South Asian Art” — a symposium that brought together scholars of South Asian art, history, and culture.