Discourse on harnessing India's soft power of arts, crafts, culture
Different streams on thought and discourse on the Indian arts, crafts and culture, notably one on harnessing these elements as India's soft power, came together at the 1st seminar on Art and Culture by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on Monday.
Held at the India Habitat Centre (IHC) in the capital, the seminar saw stakeholders of public and private cultural and crafts institutions share views on a number of issues including building public-private partnerships (PPP) in the field, India's global soft power, and public places as centres of culture.
In a panel discussion, the Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, which among other events, organises the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), Sanjoy Roy spoke about harnessing the soft power Indian arts and culture have -- something each panellist agreed is currently underexplored.
"Is it soft power or smart power that we're looking at? If we look at India's diversity, its incredible heritage and the intangible culture, we're an enormous power base waiting to be leveraged," Roy said.
"Sitting here in India we think we're top of the world, and research will show you that world over, barring some countries, there is zero information that goes out on India. What makes news is who are raped, who is being married off to a dog. As for our culture, zero," Roy argued.
Talking about the need to build a "Brand India", Roy added that it comes with the generation of value for the arts. "We need to create a brand and value proposition for India."
Adding to the discussion, a noted art curator currently associated with the Kiran Nadar Museum for Art (KNMA), Roobina Karode asked that "nobody denies the artistic and intellectual talent has, but where is the visibility?"
Recounting her experiences in the US, the veteran curator said most of the discussion there is still "pre-modern" and there is "no clue about the 20th and 21st century India". She highlighted the need for building an arts ecosystem with a focus on its audience.
A third panellist and part of another key arts stakeholder, Christie's auction house, its south Asian head Deepanjana Klein, took the audience to their Hong Kong saleroom, and spoke of the price discrepancy Indian artists face despite being "excellent artists".
The panel also featured Ministry of Culture Joint Secretary Nirupama Kotru, who voiced similar thoughts, adding that Indian performing arts and artists used to be known worldwide.
"Our academies -- Lalit Kala, Sangeet Natak and Sahitya Akademi -- people feel, are jaded and are not doing enough. There is a comfort zone we all tend to fall into, we have workshops, regional centres and outreach programmes," she said at the event.
Admitting to an administrative lapse, Kotru said that the government was not mapping and marketing "the enormous (cultural) wealth and treasures available" with India.
The seminar also hosted many private gallerists and heads of arts foundations and public institutions such as Jawahar Kala Kendra and NGMA.