Artists "In-Between"

Listeners at Sharmistha Ray's talk on Diaspora art in Mumbai on June 15, 2009. (Asia Society India Centre)

MUMBAI, June 15, 2009 - As the global Indian Diaspora continually grows, so does the strength of its artistic community. Through their art, South Asian artists are exploring what it means to be both an individual and an artist in a cross-cultural space.

In a presentation organized by the Asia Society India Centre in conjunction with Cymroza Art Gallery and the Bombay Museum Society, contemporary artist Sharmistha Ray shared with the audience some recurrent themes in South Asian Diaspora art today. Ray was careful to emphasize that there is no single definition of "Diaspora art," and that for some artists, the term itself is problematic.

Nevertheless, from post-colonialism to globalization, a general arc can be traced by which themes in South Asian Diaspora art have evolved in tandem with contemporary philosophical ideas constructed around the migrant experience. As an artist herself, Ray is particularly interested in the experience of in-between or liminal spaces, which hold great significance in the experience of an individual in a Diaspora.

In her talk, Ray discussed some underlying themes in the work of some influential contemporary South Asian Diaspora artists, including Zarina Hashmi, Rina Banerjee, Pablo Bartholemew, Chitra Ganesh, Hasan Elahi, Yamini Nayar, and Jaishri Abichandani, founder of the South Asian Women's Creative Collective in New York. Through their work, each examines the complex relationship between globalization and local culture, and confronts the difficulty of defining one's identity in the Diaspora. Their art is defined not only by cross-cultural experience, but also by a continual shifting of values. Consequently, Diaspora art is constantly evolving in order to reflect a new world order. 

Reported by Madeline Gressel, Asia Society India Centre