An Evening with Arundhati

arundhati

Written by Randeep Singh

She came. She spoke. She conquered. Arundhati Roy filled the pews of St. Andrew’s Wesley Church on April 1 as part of the Indian Summer Festival 2014.

Roy began by criticizing “representative democracy” as too much representation, not enough democracy. Democracy has plenty of institutions, Roy remarked, but those institutions have turned into conduits for a short-term, extractive, economic philosophy. “Could it be that democracy is such a hit with modern humans,” she reads, “precisely because it mirrors our greatest folly – our nearsightedness?”

Capitalism controls culture too. Roy spoke of how corporations engage in “perception management,” deliberately not funding artistic projects which question the system. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy says, drew a connection between capitalism, imperialism and the Vietnam War; but American multinationals did not highlight this aspect of his legacy when they sponsored the Martin Luther King Junior Centre for Non-Violent Social Change, an organization which works with the US Department of Defence. The Indian mining group, Vedanta, Roy points out, recently sponsored the “Creating Happiness” film competition for film students to make films on sustainable development (in communities affected by the mining) with the tagline “Mining Happiness.”

Roy also questioned Gandhi as the mahatma or “great soul.” Roy recounted how the anti-imperialist, anti-racist Gandhi fought alongside Great Britain in the Boer Wars, refused to ride in the same railway carriages as Africans and wrote in prison that Indians deserved separate prisons from vile and immoral blacks and Chinese.

When asked whether she was an activist, Roy replied she was a writer telling the world’s stories. Her readings and discussion with The Tyee’s David Beers, brought to life the politics of development, resistance movements and the management of culture by corporations just as the arts have reenacted the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement or the experience of Canadian aboriginals in Residential Schools. As Roy puts it, “why wouldn’t we write about the critical issues our society is facing?”

Arundhati Roy and Salman Rushdie on India

In the past couple of days we got word about different facets of Indian society from two of the most distinguished South Asian authors, Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy.

Salman Rushdie spoke about freedom of expression in India; and about the ‘immeasureableness’ of the damage caused by his banned-in-India-and-Pakistan novel ‘The Satanic Verses’ when the actual damage to Islam is being caused by Muslim terrorists and Muslim militant fundamentalists in Pakistan; and, more. Arundhati Roy’s article ‘Capitalism: A Ghost Story’ shows us the painful impacts of the inequalities generated by our current policies and systems. Together, these two items give us an almost wholesome image of the state of our rights and freedoms in India, South Asia, and the World.

Presented by two major media groups, here’s a video made in India, and an article published in Pakistan. Plus the diverse perspectives and expressions of two amazing novelists of our time!

Salman Rushdie
India Today Conclave 2012
New Delhi, March 17
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/video/salman-rushdie-india-today-conclave/1/178238.html

Arundhati Roy
DAWN.com/World 2012
Karachi, March 18
http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/18/capitalism-a-ghost-story-2.html
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Indian Artists divided over art show in Israel

Artists’ fraternity split wide open over art show in IsraelBy Saumit Singh
The Mumbai Mirror

An upcoming show in Tel Aviv, billed as the first major Indian art exhibit in Israel, has assumed shades a full-blown controversy that has split the artist fraternity.

Some Indian artists, who are sympathetic towards the cause of Palestine, have decided to skip the event and have called for a “cultural boycott of Israel”. Other invitees, however, have criticised this approach, saying art should not be mixed with politics.

The person leading the call for a boycott of the event, Deconstructing India, is 55-year-old Pushpamala N. She is among the 20-odd art figures invited to participate in the show, which will be held at the newly constructed Amir Wing of the Tel Aviv Museum in April 2012.

Pushpamala, a Bangalore-based photo artist, first dashed off a mail to the show’s curator, Tami Katz-Freiman, declining the invite. She then launched a signature campaign to show support for a Palestinian civil society movement, which calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with the international law and respects Palestinian rights.

English novelist and art critic John Berger and author-activist Arundhati Roy are among the world-renowned names backing the call for a cultural boycott.

In her mail, which has been widely circulated among Indian artists and galleries, Pushpmala has highlighted the efforts of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). “If we exhibit in this show we will be legitimising the racist and apartheid policies of the Israeli Government,” she has stated.

A section of Indian artists, including Tushar Joag, holds a similar view. “We are in the process of collecting signatures. I already have the backing of five participating artists and some more have expressed solidarity. Some artists are travelling, so I am just waiting to get a revert from them. I plan to issue a press statement in a few days,” Pushpamala told Mumbai Mirror.

Art critic Girish Shahane and senior artist Laxman Shreshta, however, are opposed to such an approach.

“If we start boycotting museum shows because of bad things governments are doing, where will it end? Why should Indian artists exhibit in China, when the regime there has been responsible for horrendous massacres and continues to deny basic freedom of expression to its citizens?” Girish has stated. “Associating art institutions and centres of learning, even state-funded ones, so closely with state policy is a silly mistake in my opinion, and tokenism of the worst kind as well.”

Shreshta said that there was no need to mix politics with arts. “It’s like the case of the rebel without a cause. I would not support Pushpamala at all. If India artists have been invited for this interesting exhibition, they should go there and show the world what they are doing,” he said.

Atul Dodiya made a similar point. “Any country which commits atrocities should be roundly condemned. But while even artists have political viewpoints, art itself cannot be a political tool. It is a means to create bonds, not break them. That is why even with Pakistan, we continue to maintain cultural relations. So why not Israel?”

Sudarshan Shetty, who has been invited to the show in Tel Aviv, feels boycotting the event would not serve any purpose. “I don’t have any fresh work to show there, so the curator is arranging for some earlier works of mine from private collectors. I will be participating, though I am still to figure whether others plan to,” he said. “I don’t think boycotting the show is a solution. You can instead use that opportunity to express your view. There are problems in almost every country, including India – so should we completely stop exhibiting our art?”

Other invitees are Ravi Agarwal, Atul Bhalla, Anita Dube, Shilpa Gupta, Subodh Gupta, Ranbir Kaleka, Jitish Kallat, Riyas Komu, TV Santhosh, Hema Upadhyay and Lochan Upadhyay. They may be forced to take a stand over the issue as the entire list of participants has been made public.

From http://www.mumbaimirror.com/

Uddari fully supports the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), and the Indian artists who are boycotting the Tel Aviv art show in 2012.
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