“In the ugly moments of history — times of conflict, war, oppression or censorship — two questions are provoked, over and over: what is good art in such times? And what good is art in response to such times?” Kamila Shamsie Art in a time of Conflict.
Art in a sense may not be able to change anything in the eye of the storm but it does and must bear witness. National Foundation for India (NFI), a social justice philanthropic institution that has nurtured several civil society initiatives across India’s Northeast and the rest of the country also believes in bearing witness; “when we bear witness to conflict we also bear witness to transformation.”
Given that NFI is completing 25 years of its civil society strengthening work, Arteast is an initiative of NFI to raise pertinent questions through a series of engagements on art, livelihood, social justice, climate change, communication, history- past and present, issues that have a far reaching impact on every day life of people and of the nation.
Maskmakers and artists from Majuli, the world's biggest inhabited river island will demonstrate their craft through installations and workshops. Central to their artistic approach is the performative aspect of masks. They will present Majuli and the predicament the island district is faced with in the form of objects or as seemingly haunted environments. The Majuli pavilion will have carefully staged scenarios and built spaces where sight and sound will help create an immersive experience. This installation has historical and cultural intersections between monastic art, tribal life, climate change and displacement.
This installation in water depicts homelessness of the people of Majuli with relentless erosion and loss of livelihood and habitat. While movement and change are associated with migration and displacement, there is often a desire of seeking home in stillness and contemplation, as Pico Iyer would say, accommodating the soul as one’s own moveable home. Everyday objects of home fill up the physical space of memory and identity; a pot, a lantern, a bicycle, a suitcase, the masks that are perhaps no longer required and their gods and goddesses. Besieged by water on all sides, every year the islanders prepare against the inevitable but hope stays afloat.
Bridges in East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya are not built but grown. This photo essay by Ian Lyngdoh shows how villages in Meghalaya uses traditional knowledge to engineer a unique bridge building art with living roots of rubber trees. This is an ancient art of making the roots grow across a stretch weaving in sticks and stones till they take root on the other side of the river thus allowing the people to cross over. But deforestation and climate change resulting in erratic rainfall is affecting the roots. There is a need for awareness as well as acknowledgement of this rare art form to save these rubber trees and sustain the geo-engineering by the community.
The exhibition explores the architecture of forms mimicking human movement and inspired by the constructing powers in nature as well as architecture. It attempts to capture the multi-facetedness of living, which are passive and active, organic and inorganic. The work is inspired by the aesthetics of Bauhaus and traditional Naga renderings.
Majuli, the island district of Assam presents a unique study in changing life and livelihood patterns against the backdrop of erosion and climate change; for example the centuries old tradition of mask making there is under duress. Development activist Sanjoy Ghose had initiated pioneering work in saving Majuli but his work was interrupted by unfortunate turn of events. ArtEast will open with a choreographed performance by bhaona artists from Majuli paying a personal tribute to Sanjoy who was their friend and guide.
The film explores the challenges in preserving the island physically and it's culture of mask making that is as threatened as the island itself. It is a searing narrative of survival of art and life itself, told through masked characters drawn from mythology. The film is a representation of the predicament that people of Majuli are confronting every day; survival of the river island, holding on to an art form and livelihood itself.
Eastern India’s stories of Partition somehow remain outside the general narrative of Partition of India. The Partition of Bengal in 1905 and then in 1947 and creation of Bangladesh in 1971 has had deep effects in the body politic of the entire eastern region and beyond. However, there is barely any documentation of the history that continues to influence the physical and mental landscape of millions of people. In comparison, the Partition of Punjab has been widely and well documented through pictures, literature and memory projects. Through this discussion we would like to understand why the stories of Partition in the East are obfuscated and thereafter launch a memory project to chronicle the Partition. It will begin with presentation by Moushumi Bhowmik based on field recordings from The Travelling Archive.
‘The word adda (pronounced "uddah") is translated by the Bengali linguist Sunitikumar Chattopadhyay as "a place” for "careless talk with boon companions” or "the chats of intimate friends” Roughly speaking, it is the practice of friends getting together for long, informal and unrigorous conversations.’ In this session we will have an adda on the culture of adda and perhaps the shrinking space for conversations and opinions as well. Adda in some form is part of every culture and community and this is a celebration of that art of conversation. Shiv Visvanathan along with others will join the Adda.
Moushumi Bhowmik is a singer, songwriter and music researcher who has been involved in a field recordings-based project called The Travelling Archive: Field Recordings and Field Notes from Bengal (www.thetravellingarchive.org). As an independent artist, Moushumi's work centres on questions of home and the search for home.
Tajdar Junaid is a multi instrumentalist, songwriter, composer, producer who released his debut album "What Colour Is Your Raindrop" in 2013 and was named as album of the year by Rolling Stone magazine. His music has been featured in Academy Award winner Emma Thomson's film "Sold" and acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf's film "The President".
A panel discussion with leaders of philanthropic institutions to understand and explore how giving is impacted and influenced by factors as unique to challenging territories like the Northeast.
India s Northeast is seen and articulated more from the lens of security than good governance where the former is often used as a shield to justify deviation from latter. This panel discusses the challenges to good governance in the region and the role a strengthened civil society could play in bringing governance to the core.
Curated by Dhrubajit Chaliha
Dry leaves, infused leaves and the tea liquor itself all have distinctive aromas peculiar to their region. Like aroma, tea has several other qualities like colour, looks, infusion, or even character. It can be lively and vigorous or full and juicy. This session in tea tasting will take us through various shades and tastes of tea for the discerning as well as the uninitiated.
'Every face has a story' is a bit of a cliche but every face does tell a story. This series of 10 portraits in charcoal made with photographic references is part of an ongoing project by Joydeep Choudhury to document faces from more than 200 ethnic communities in India's Northeast and map the region through faces.
This festival has been created to showcase both the potentials and concerns the region of Northeast India harbours. The Northeast Desk at NFI has been constantly engaging with strengthening civil society in the region. The festival attempts to bring the foundation's 25 years long innings in the Northeast to the consciousness of public outside the region.
India International Centre
40, Max Mueller Marg