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News Category: Arts at SAI


Faculty Voices: Where India and China Meet


1Where India and China Meet: Buddhist Art Exhibition in Palace Museum, Beijing  

By Jinah Kim, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University

Kim received a SAI Faculty Grant for her research on Indian painting.

A first major loan exhibition of Indian art in Beijing, China is currently held in the majestic Meridian gate tower of the Palace Museum (September 28, 2016- January 3 2017) of the Forbidden City (see a virtual tour of the exhibition here.) “Across the Silk Road: Gupta Sculptures and their Chinese Counterparts during 400 to 700CE” is an ambitious exhibition conceived by the senior curatorial fellow of the Palace Museum, Dr. Lou Wenhua, after his visit to India over 3 years ago. Fifty-six sculptures from nine Indian Museums are on display against a red backdrop in one gallery, while two adjacent galleries are filled with over one hundred Chinese Buddhist sculptures against blue backdrop. Bringing this exhibition together is an impressive feat by the organizers in Beijing, which, of course, was not possible without collaborative efforts from many museum personnel and officers in India.

When the China-India bilateral relationship is not as rosy and warm as anticipated (i.e. India’s failed entry into the NSG at the Seoul plenary, CPEC [China Pakistan Economic Corridor] developments—part of President Xie Jinping’s Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Maritime Silk Road projects), the exhibition reminds us of the age old connections between the two countries, notably activated and solidified through the transmission of Buddhism. It also opens up new possibilities of trans-regional connections for the future that may benefit tremendously from mutual understanding of each other’s culture and history.

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SAI hosts artists Komal Shahid Khan and Meenakshi Sengupta


Visiting the Harvard Art Museums

Visiting the Harvard Art Museums

From November 29 – December 9, the South Asia Institute hosted two artists from South Asia as part of its Visiting Artist Program. Komal Shahid Khan, from Islamabad, Pakistan, and Meenakshi Sengupta, from Kolkata, India, spent their time at Harvard attending classes, meeting with students and faculty, giving a public seminar, and had the opportunity to display their work on campus.

The artists visited several undergraduate classes where they were invited to speak about their work and engage with students. Courses included ‘History and Sexuality in the Modern West’ taught by Nancy Cott, Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History, ‘Comparative Politics of Gender Inequality’ taught by Ana Catalano Weeks, College Fellow in the Government Department, ‘Gender and the Making of Modern South Asia,’ taught by Catherine Warner, College Fellow in the Department of South Asian Studies,  and ‘Leaning in, Hooking up: Visions of Feminism and Femininity in the 21st Century’ taught by Phyllis Thompson, Lecturer on Studies on Women, Gender, and Sexuality. The artists were also invited to the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies for an informal gathering with concentrators and affiliates.

During their visit, Khan and Sengupta were exposed to the various arts-related resources at Harvard. Rachel Parikh, Calderwood Curatorial Fellow for South Asian Art, Harvard Art Museums, led a session for the artists in the Museum’s Art Study Center, and allowed the artists to access several pieces from the Museum’s collection. Lamia Joreige, Rita E. Hauser Fellow, Radcliffe Institute and a renowned visual artist and filmmaker from Lebanon invited the artists to her studio to speak about their artistic process.

“We experienced a lot. Visiting the museums and seeing the original works there, that means a lot to me,” Sengupta said.

During their time, the two artists collaborated on an interactive performance piece about Partition, an idea that formed when they met in Cambridge. (Video below).

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Komal Shahid Khan: “Art, in itself, is the process of creation”


CaptureFrom Nov. 29 – Dec. 9, the South Asia Institute hosted artist Komal Shahid Khan at Harvard through the Visiting Artist Program.

Khan is a Visual Artist, based in Islamabad, Pakistan. She graduated from the University of Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan in 2012 and then did her Master in Fine Arts from Fatima Jinnah Women University Rawalpindi, Pakistan with specialization in Miniature Painting. On completing the degree in 2014, she scored Distinction and was awarded Gold Medal for my Thesis Show in 2014. Since graduating, she started her career with Group Shows in art galleries in Islamabad/Rawalpindi and then moved on to Lahore and Karachi as well. She is presently teaching at the National College of Arts Rawalpindi, Pakistan, as a Lecturer. October, 2016 marks her First Solo Exhibition entitled as “Imagined Immortals” in Karachi, Pakistan.

Below, is a description of Khan’s work in her own words.

Art, in itself, is the process of creation, and for me it is like a journey that sets off the moment my pencil or brush lands on the paper or canvases…..a journey with no bounds…a journey so self-explanation.

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Meenakshi Sengupta: Exploring gender identity in art


1J6A7002From Nov. 29 – Dec. 9, the South Asia Institute hosted artists Meenakshi Sengupta at Harvard through the Visiting Artist Program.

Born in 1987, Kolkota, India, Meenakshi holds a B.V.A. 2011 (Painting), from the University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India and a M.F.A. 2013 (Painting) with distinction (Gold Medal), from the Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, India.

Since graduating, she has been practicng her art and showing it together with Gallery Maskara, Mumbai, India. In her work, she uses traditional pictorial representation to push formal and aesthetic conventions producing new meaning by using wit and irony to explore gender identity and complexities in contemporary life.

Below, is a description of Sengupta’s work in her own words.

As a young woman taking my first step into motherhood, I often find myself struggling in a world that sends conflicting messages about what a woman is or should be; patriarchy any­where continues to reinforce misguided views about women. Still excluded from discussions about war or national security, women are mostly confined to issues regarding health and fam­ily life. Why is it so difficult to see a woman as more than the sum total of her family obligations? Isn’t it possible to recognize her right to decide her own priorities?

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SAI welcomes Arts Council member


Art by 2015 Visiting Artist Ranjit Kandalgaonkar

Art by 2015 Visiting Artist Ranjit Kandalgaonkar

The South Asia Institute is honored to welcome Dipti Mathur to the SAI Arts Council. Council members provide support and advisement for the Arts at SAI program, which aims to connect South Asia’s curators, museum administrators, artists, and art educators with Harvard faculty and students to support activity and research that advance understanding and appreciation of South Asian art.

Dr. Mathur has built a highly regarded collection of modern and contemporary South Asian art. She has served on the Collections Committee of the Asia Society Museum, New York, on the Contemporary Art Advisory Panel of the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, and on the Board of Trustees of the Seattle Art Museum. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the San Jose Museum of Art, and is a founding member of the Asian Contemporary Art Consortium in San Francisco.

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Nov. 29 – Dec. 9: Visiting Artists at Harvard


SAI is pleased to announce our Visiting Artists for the fall semester, who will be in Cambridge from November 29 – December 9. During their time at Harvard, the artists will display their work on campus, meet with students, attend courses, and give a public seminar.

Their work is currently on display in the CGIS Knafel Cafe, 1737 Cambridge Street, and the SAI office, 4th floor of CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street.

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A peek at Harvard Art Museums’ South Asia collection


This week, Rachel Parikh (@rachel.parikh), the Calderwood Curatorial Fellow of South Asian Art at Harvard Art Museums took over SAI’s Instagram account (@HarvardSAI) to highlight some of the museum’s amazing South Asian Art collection. Rachel specializes in South Asian manuscript painting and arms and armor from the sixteenth through nineteenth century.

Learn more about SAI’s Arts Program.

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Student Voices: Buddhist art in Odisha


sonali2This is part of a series in which we share reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Sonali Dhingra, PhD candidate, History of Art and Architecture, Harvard

My dissertation on “Buddhist art in Odisha between the seventh and eleventh century” is based on sculptural and architectural remains from the south-eastern Indian coastal state of Odisha. A generous grant from the South Asia Institute at Harvard enabled me to learn Odia, the primary language spoken in region. I spent the summer in the green and beautiful city of Bhubaneshwar, also known as the “city of temples”.

Classes were arranged through the American Institute of Indian studies, as Odia is not taught at Harvard and is seldom learned by graduate students working on South Asia. In fact, I was the only student in the program which was consequently well-tailored to my needs. The language program segued seamlessly into my field-work year and after a successful completion of the program, I visited several living temples, small villages and archaeological sites in rural Odisha, where knowing Odia is a definite asset. Medieval Odiya literature is indispensable for tracing the lives of the images and architectural spaces that I am studying for my dissertation project.

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In their own words: Why I support the arts


IMG_9103 - CopyRepresenting Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, the members of the SAI Arts Council provide financial support and advisement for SAI’s Arts Program. The program connects South Asia’s artists with Harvard faculty and students to support research that advances the understanding of cultural, political, social, and economic issues of the world through art.

SAI recently welcomed Omar Saeed, based in Lahore, to the council. Mr. Saeed came to SAI as an in-kind supporter 5 years ago. He has been the Chief Executive Officer of Service Industries Ltd. since July 31, 2011. Mr. Saeed served as Chief Operating Officer of Premier BPO Inc. He ran Service Sales Corporation as Chief Operating Officer from 2002 to 2010. He founded Ovex Technologies (Private) Limited in 2003 and served as its Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Saeed has served as President of Harvard Business School Club of Pakistan and is an adjunct faculty member at LUMS. He is a graduate of Brown University and did his Masters in Business Administration from Harvard Business School.

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Update from Visiting Artists, 2015-16


During the 2015-2016 academic year, SAI hosted 4 artists from South Asia for a week each, where they visited course, interacted with students, displayed their work, and gave a public seminar. Below are updates from what they have been involved in since their time at Harvard.

Apply for the upcoming year’s program (Deadline Aug. 15, 2016).

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