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When art reflects a socio-political reality

Bringing together young artists from across the subcontinent to produce paintings, sculptures, installations and exploring the shared histories of their regions, Young Subcontinent is an exhibition at the PWD Complex, Panaji, curated by artist and sculptor, Riyas Komu at Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF). Here artists have expressed various concerns faced through their works of art. NT BUZZ speaks to Riyas about this project


The Young Subcontinent project curated by Riyas Komu attempts to settle the scattered political boundaries across the subcontinent of countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Maldives. To Riyas, art changes its social role as the social structure changes. “Sometimes it takes up the role of celebrating certain kind of history and adds to the high values of aesthetic, while sometimes it become a political tool and mode of activism,” he says while adding that art for him is a tool to express his concerns about the time he lives in.

Riyas expresses that one of the major aspects of being an artist is that it helps him think effectively. “Creating art is about thinking, it keeps me engaged and alert about my surroundings. Whenever I have travelled with my works, I have felt that a certain understanding in art actually makes it easier to understand society and cultures,” says Riyas.

The Young Subcontinent exhibition, showcasing young emerging artists’ work from across South Asia, is a long term project that was started last year. It gives artists hope to remain artists as well as try to address some complex socio-political issues they wish to highlight through their works. “Being an observer of contemporary art practices globally, I have always felt that our subcontinent does not have enough infrastructures. I met artists and discussed about their concerns, about conflicts they face, the issues of survival, terrorism, conflicts of borders, etc,” explains Riyas. A subcontinent is a region where you have a shared history, mythology or even where water was shared, it’s an important landscape. “The future generation should be given a platform to showcase their works under one roof. This project aims to build a great mix of young body of arts and artists whom we support by this project,” shares Riyas.

The artists have expressed their concerns through their works. “Each work is a deliberation of their socio political reality. Afghanistan as a country has been suffering from ethnic clashes and there are different types of ethnic communities that clash with one another. One of the artists Latif Atai’s body of work involves erasing the identity of the people through over 250 portraits that are exhibited,” says Riyas. In contrast to this is the work by an artist from Kochi, Kerala, who has done a project on about 38 communities living together in a radius of four kilometres, while another artist from Nepal, Sunita Maharjan has exhibited an aerial perspective of Kathmandu showing how city dwellers live in constrained spaces.

The political scenario of South Asia has left a mark on the works of these artists which is evident through their artwork. “The works of Biju Ibrahim from Nepal talks about the immediate need of multi-culturalism in India and how a community lives in harmony for hundreds of years. Biju is exhibiting a microcosm of larger India which becomes a political and social argument from the side of the artist,” says Riyas. Three traditionally bound artists from Bhutan have collaborated to create this work. “The selection was interesting as I wanted to take the works of artists who are following a traditional way of making art. It gives me a lot of hope that with these kinds of exercises – shared ways of looking at their context, focusing on their own surroundings and realities, it actually produces fresh works and are going away from American centric aesthetic mindset or art making process,” says Riyas.

According to Riyas the coming of SAF to Goa is going to create a certain kind of momentum in a place famously known as a location where people come to celebrate. “Festivals like this celebrate the cosmopolitan legacy of this region, exposing its culture to the rest of the world and the art production taking place, inspired from a cosmopolitan history of the region, it will be a great asset to the coming future,” says Riyas who strongly feels that if we preserve art, then art has a capacity to preserve us. “SAF brings a great amount of discourses between different disciplines like theatre, cinema, visual art, music, photography, craft, and diverse kinds of people coming together to be a part of this festival. Goa is anyway an attractive tourist destination and it will trigger the local economy,” says Riyas adding that he hopes that this festival would inspire the authorities to build better art infrastructures and make art an integral part of the educational curriculum.


(Young Subcontinent is organised at PWD Complex, Panaji. The viewing is open to all registered delegates.)

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