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India Foundation for the Arts
Newsletter Edition 32
May - October 2015
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Hello Readers!

We are back with many exciting engagements and updates on grants and initiatives at India Foundation for the Arts (IFA), during the months of May to October, 2015!

This has been an eventful period for us, with many activities across our different programmes – Arts Research, Arts Practice and Arts Education, and the unveiling of the second edition of Project 560.

A magical evening of stories and poetry unfolded at our last fundraiser, on October 08, 2015, – Motley's dramatised reading of Beastly Tales by Vikram Seth and James Thurber, opened to a full-house! The evening kept the audience enthralled, as Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah, Heeba Shah and Kenny Desai, transformed into the many beasts and humans from Seth and Thurber's imagination.

Announcing Project 560, 2015
Motley presents Beastly Tales at Chowdiah Memorail Hall, Bangalore

We organised sixteen grant showcases during these months comprising performances, film screenings, presentations, and exhibitions, across the country, from urban centres like Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata, to the atmospheric Kargil.

We also held five MaathuKathes, which are intimate spaces for discussion at our office, and have proved to be popular with our audiences; audience members actively, and at times passionately, engaged with the different artists, writers and performers, and their work.

While all of these engagements reflect our commitment to support innovative projects, and engage creatively with our audiences, it also proves that the IFA community, including you, our readers, are committed to enabling a vibrant environment for the arts. Thank you for your participation and support!

We are also thrilled at the response from the arts community to our Request for Proposals (RFP) under our freshly articulated Arts Research programme; we received 216 queries from scholars and practitioners across the country! We will announce the list of selected grants in November 2015. This period also witnessed support given to many diverse grants made under our other programmes and initiatives – six under our Arts Practice programme, three under our Arts Education programme, and one Archival and Museum Fellowship. Please read on to know more about the artists, researchers and curators, who will journey with us through the coming months.

We received many inspiring proposals for our Project 560, 2015 edition - partnered with Citi India, and made six grants, which we hope will contribute to a renewed exploration of the city of Bangalore and its found spaces. We are also delighted to announce the launch of curated Arts Walks under Project 560, 2015 to connect the many inhabitants of this city with the artistic and cultural histories that have shaped its make-up. The walks kicked off in August and will continue up to March 2016, please do visit our website or follow us on twitter and facebook for updates.

Our Annual Report for the year 2014-15 is now out! Do check it out, to know more about our work over the last year, one of our most active – with 40 grants, 45 engagements, and collaborations spanning the country.

We hope you enjoy the contents of this newsletter.
You can write to us at with any feedback that you may have.
We would love to hear from you!

The IFA Team

Programmes Publications
Events Slant/Stance
Announcements Support Us

Arts Research (AR)

We sent a Request for Proposals (RFP) for our rearticulated Arts Research programme last quarter, seeking proposals from researchers, scholars and practitioners, to undertake research into the various histories and expressions of artistic practices in India.

We received proposals in many Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Urdu and Kannada, which is a significant development in encouraging discourse in different language contexts. The proposals were subject to rigorous inquiry by an eminent panel of experts, comprising Sadanand Menon – arts editor and journalist; Nilima Sheikh – visual artist; Lakshmi Subramanian – professor of History at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences; and Sanjoy Hazarika – professor of North Eastern Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia. They critically engaged with the proposals, and finalised a list of grants to be made, featuring a diverse set of projects, from across the country, in multiple languages. The final list of grants awarded will be shared in November 2015, which we hope will demonstrate the depth in range and rigour of enquiry happening across the country. Please do check our website for updates.

Arts Practice (AP)

The Arts Practice programme seeks to establish a culture where arts practice is constantly being shaped and articulated through experimentation, critique and dialogue. The grants made in this period invigorate this aspiration:

Soumya Sankar Bose received a grant to artistically represent the untold private lives of veteran Jatra artists. Soumya comes from a family with a legacy of performers; his photography seeks to provide glimpses of the stories of Jatra artists as performers in costume; while also capturing their inner lives by photographing them within their quotidian environments.

Announcing Project 560, 2015
A Jatra artist photographed in his everyday environment from a project by Soumya Sankar Bose

With members from diverse backgrounds such as theatre, design, architecture, filmmaking, radio, and journalism, Perch is an eclectic performance collective. They received a grant to stage a play themed around mobile phones. Tentatively titled, The Monkey and the Mobile, the piece questions the effect of technology on our social lives and personal interactions. It also experiments with content and style, by pushing boundaries between technology, society and performance.

How do you tell the tale of a hammer or a chisel that built a city? What are the stories hidden in these objects and the people who wield them? Bhagwati Prasad seeks to explore these questions by creating a graphic narrative and a series of performances, on the untold stories of migrant labourers and their tools, as they transform the history of the city of Delhi.

The remains of Queen Ketevan of Georgia have been a mystery circulated through history and folklore. While the story is intriguing, the narrative proves difficult, for it straddles the realm of the speculative and documented. Gayatri Kodikal's grant for the development of a game-art environment tries to balance the two spaces by using archival materials, while experimenting with a non-linear, audience-driven narrative. It pushes the limits of film, games and the digital media to allow interaction between traditional board games and interactive screen games, as the audience attempts to piece together this centuries old mystery.

Anurupa Roy, a puppeteer, received a grant for a workshop, with a traditional master Kathputli practitioner from Rajasthan – Puran Bhatt. This is the third in a series of IFA funded workshops to address the need for building a robust discourse and pedagogy for puppetry in India. The workshop conducted over eighteen days, for eight participants from diverse artistic backgrounds, seeks to build this pedagogy through intensive training, discussions and artistic exchanges, between traditional and contemporary puppeteers and other arts practitioners who draw from puppetry in form, content or aesthetics.

Announcing Project 560, 2015
Poster calling for applications from the puppetry workshop conducted by Anurupa Roy on Kathputli
a form of string puppetry from Rajasthan

IFA's long association with the Mir Musicians of Bikaner, continued during this period with a Foundation-Administered Project (FAP) in Rajasthan that will bring together the families of Mir musicians and their patrons scattered across the Bikaner region, to reinvigorate their musical tradition. A core team of senior as well as young artists, along with patrons will undertake a yatra, across the Bikaner region, towards facilitating musical interchanges, community interactions and mapping musical opportunities within cultural festivals and events.

Arts Education (AE)

IFA supports teachers and artists across Karnataka to work on arts projects at Government Schools through its Kali-Kalisu initiative, under the Arts Education programme. The Kannada words 'Kali-Kalisu' translated as "learn and teach", embraces the belief that learning and teaching happen in tandem, and that the joy of learning stems from the joy of teaching. Our grants made under this initiative reflect not only the objectives of teachers and artists, but also involve the communities that surround these educational spaces and the people who inhabit these places, the students being at the core of these ventures. The grants made to artists in this quarter reflect this ethos.

Community food recipes and culinary practices at Ramalingapura, Shira, Tumkur, are at the core of Arpita G's project to create a calendar and a series of comic strips with students from the Government School at Ramalingapura. In another project, Meeta Jain will collaborate with Bakul Janito to create an archive of lost traditions and rituals, by mapping the history and culture of Sulthanpet village and its locality, with the students of the Government Primary School, Sulthanpet village, Chikkaballapura. Nirmala Ravindran received a grant to build pedagogy through theatre practice, re-interpreting existing stories, as well as creating new ones, from the perspective of a child with the students of the Government Primary School in Siddapura-Tubrahalli, Bengaluru.

IFA, in association with the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), New Delhi, and Department of State Educational Research and Training (DSERT), Bangalore, organised an Art Integrated Master Resource Person (MRP) capacity building training programme, under our Kali-Kalisu initiative, from July 22 to July 31, 2015, in Bengaluru. The MRP programme seeks to provide leadership development opportunities for teachers; help administrators in education and policy makers, understand how the arts can be effectively used in education to advance curricula, strengthen educational opportunities and expand community involvement in education.

Announcing Project 560, 2015
Teachers attend the Master Resource Person (MRP) training programme in Bangalore

The training programme encompassed sessions involving film screenings, sketching/drawing in parks, discussions on literature and storytelling, and theatre skills development workshops.

Announcing Project 560, 2015
Teachers participate in a theatre workshop as part of the MRP training programme

For Venkatesh Naik, Government School teacher, Honnavara, Uttara Kannada district, Karnataka, these sessions were productive learning spaces as: "These tools (amassed in these sessions) not only made me confident but also motivate me to learn a new skill". Do visit our gallery to view images from the processes that inspired Venkatesh's observations.

The Request for Proposals for government school teachers, wishing to engage with the arts and their communities closed on October 16, and we look forward to engaging with interesting and new contexts, people and communities.

Kali-Kalisu is a joint project of India Foundation for the Arts and Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, Bangalore.

Archival and Museum Fellowships

This quarter was an animated period for our Archival and Museum Fellowships. It saw one of our long term engagements come to fruition with the Sir Ratan Tata Trust (SRTT) agreeing to support this initiative over the next three years. We thank SRTT for having faith in this relatively new and exploratory endeavour of IFA.

This period also witnessed the realisation of one of our fellowships — Latika Gupta's curated permanent exhibition and collaboration with the Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum of Central Asian & Kargil Trade Artifacts in Kargil — and a collaboration with the Asia Art Archive (AAA), Delhi/ Hong Kong, for one Archival Fellowship, awarded to Vinod Velayudhan.

Vinod Velayudhan received support to construct a data visualisation prototype of Prof Jyoti Bhatt's collection, 'Living Traditions', that now forms part of the Asia Art Archive. Prof Jyoti Bhatt, a renowned painter, printmaker and photographer based in Baroda, documented various 'living traditions' and the daily lives of people across the country, through photographs, notes, sketchbooks, diaries, audio interviews and articles. This data visualisation prototype will expose and make readable, the information that is layered in the text based data in Prof Bhatt's collection.

The exhibition at the Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum of Central Asian & Kargil Trade Artifacts, curated by Latika Gupta, opened to an enthusiastic and packed audience in Kargil on June 13, 2015. The exhibition prompted conversations and reminisces by local residents, about their own families' histories in Kargil before Independence in 1947. Visitors who were unfamiliar with the context of the collection also felt that the extended captions and the categorisation of objects, allowed for better access to the material and cultural history of the region.

This fellowship was made possible with the support of the INLAKS Shivdasani Foundation.

Announcing Project 560, 2015
Visitors at the Munshi Aziz Bhatt Museum's permanent collection curated by Latika Gupta –
Kargil: Crossroads of Trade and Culture

This newsletter features an interview with Latika Gupta on her experience with the fellowship; the unique history of this museum; the importance of re-locating Kargil in popular imagination, from a space of conflict to its position at the crossroads of culture; and more, in our 'Slant/Stance' section.

Project 560, 2015

Bangalore city, like many others in the country, has moved, paused, changed and negotiated with forces of urbanisation over the last few years. Project 560 is an effort to explore and understand the stories of the various spaces, their histories and meanings through the contemplation, engagements and imagination of artists and residents.

The call for proposals for Project 560, 2015, sent out in April 2015 received an enthusiastic response from artists, both within and outside the city. We received 27 proposals, and following a three month intensive proposal development period, including an external evaluation by an eminent panel comprising, Vivek Shanbhag—writer, novelist and playwright; Maya Krishna Rao—theatre actor and director; and Deepa Ganesh—senior journalist with The Hindu, six proposals were selected for grantmaking.

Announcing Project 560, 2015
Project 560, 2015 grantees at the IFA office, Bangalore

S Ramnatha received a grant for a theatrical performance inspired by the life and works of theatre legend B V Karanth. The performance will take place at Karanth's house in Girinagar, where he spent the last years of his life.

N Mangala received a grant for a multi-sensory artistic experience at one of Bangalore's old restaurants, the Vidyarthi Bhavan located in Gandhi Bazaar. The artistic intervention will involve theatre, music and visual installation that reflect on the history of Vidyarthi Bhavan, and attempt to make new meanings of the space in contemporary Bangalore.

Archana Prasad received a grant for the installation of a structure similar to an old-fashioned telephone booth under the Yeshwantpur flyover. The telephone inside the booth would function as a story-telling machine that recaptures a rapidly transforming Malleswaram, through recorded interviews of its residents.

Prathibha Nandakumar received a grant for one plussu, one lessu – a poetry performance, a photo exhibition and an installation at the site of an old Bangalore coffee shop.

Anuradha Venkataraman received a grant for a dance and theatrical performance that engages with the psychological, sociological and political understandings of war and its many representations, within the museum space. This performance will take place at the Government Museum.

Shaunak Mahbubani received a grant for a group of artists and designers from the KLASTCH Collective to make a series of multi-disciplinary artistic interventions, including performances and installations, at Chikpet's 100-year old Mohan Building, through an engagement with the multi-layered narratives of the space.

Project 560, 2015 — Curated Arts Walk

For the first time ever, IFA will conduct curated walks in Bangalore city, as part of Project 560, 2015, partnered with Citi India. This series of curated art walks began in August 2015 and will continue up to March 2016. Conducted by the residents, for the residents, these 'Arts Walks', explore broad themes like Bangalore's artistic traditions/practices; artist biographies revolving around their work; neighbourhoods that have nurtured the arts; histories of arts spaces such as music halls, theatres, cinema halls and film studios; arts institutions; public sculptures and installations; and architecture, in the city.

The first Arts Walk was conducted in Hanumantha Nagar on August 30, with a repeat on September 06, and was curated by Suresh Moona, noted historian and chronicler of Bangalore's past. An area with a unique balance of natural beauty and rich history, Hanumantha Nagar was ideally suited to examine Bangalore's connection with the arts. Starting at Kala Mandira and meandering past Ananda Milanadri Gudda and Harihara Gudda, the group journeyed to Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple, exploring caves and more!

Announcing Project 560, 2015
Photograph from the first Arts Walk, part of Project 560, 2015, curated by Suresh Moona
in Hanumantha Nagar, Bangalore

The third walk was conducted in Malleswara (Malleswaram) on October 20, and was curated by Prof Srinivas Murthy, a professor at MES College and local resident of Malleswara. A small hamlet turned into a suburb and soon an extension, Malleswara vaunts a unique cosmopolitanism courtesy of its diverse inhabitants. The walk began at Kadu Malleshwara Devasthana (temple) and included sneak peeks into the navaratri gollu celebrations of local residents and communities. Do visit our gallery to view images from our walks.

The fourth Arts Walk will be conducted on October 31, 2015 and will explore the sounds and stories of yesteryear MG Road, with the fifth Arts Walk scheduled for November 8, 2015 in Ulsoor. Do follow us on facebook and twitter or check our website for regular updates on these walks and more from Project 560, 2015!

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We organised sixteen grant showcases across the country including Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kargil and Kolkata, during this period.

Kargil: Crossroads of Trade and Culture a permanent exhibition of the Munshi Aziz Bhatt Museum of Central Asian & Kargil Trade Artifacts, curated by Archival and Museum Fellow Latika Gupta opened on June 13, 2015 at Kargil, Ladakh.

IFA partnered with Lamakaan, in Hyderabad to bring an IFA Open House, and present a grant showcase featuring presentations by Epsita Halder, Yousuf Saeed and Ashima Sood, on June 13, 2015.

Making Music, Making Space, an event featuring an exhibition, concerts and listening sessions curated by Tejaswini Niranjana, on Mumbai's Hindustani classical music heritage, opened to enthusiastic audiences, in June 2015, at Studio X, Mumbai.

IFA partnered with the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), Bangalore, for a film screening of Every Time You Tell a Story, by Ruchika Negi and Amit Mahanti; a grant showcase made possible with the support of Voltas Limited, on July 1, 2015. The screening was repeated on July 2, 2015 at Mount Carmel College for the Mass Communication students and at Christ University for the Journalism and Mass Communication students.

We screened our grantee Merajur Rahman Baruah's film The Nine Months, which examines the history, and aesthetics of the mobile theatre of Assam, at Speaking of Theatre, a two-day confluence on theatre in Bangalore, on July 18 and 19, 2015. Our Executive Director, Arundhati Ghosh also participated in a panel discussion at this event, with Sharanya Ramprakash, who received a grant for the creation of a production examining the role of women in yakshagana — they discussed the role of grantmaking in the arts and particularly, in theatre.

Nabarun Doc and Installations, by our grantee Q (Kaushik Mukherjee), was a unique event at Bajeshibpur, Kolkata, on July 30, 2015, which featured a film screening of Nabarun Doc, an exploration of the life, work and sensibility of the Bengali writer and poet, Nabarun Bhattacharya; and installations which attempted to explore the revolutionary spirit of Nabarun's world and its characters. Nabarun Doc was also screened at the Max Mueller Bhavan, Kolkata on July 31, 2015.

IFA hosted Artists in Communities, a presentation by two grantees Sumona Chakravarty and S Kaladhar, on August 20, 2015, at The Park, Bangalore. Sumona talked about the Chitpur Local Project and the efforts of the community and arts collective, Hamdasti, in revitalising the Chitpur locality in Kolkata; while Kaladhar spoke about his work with the students at Kannamangala Government Higher Primary School, and his attempts to explore the arts with children, in stimulating ways through reviews, personal writing, and more. This grant showcase was made possible with the support of Voltas Limited.

Danish Husain (left) and Mahmood Farooqui enthrall audiences with Dastangoi, at the IFA fundraiser, 
Chowdiah Memorial Hall, March 6, 2015
Kaladhar and Sumona Chakravarty present Artists in Communities at The Park, Bangalore

IFA partnered with Alliance Française of Madras and brought Exploring the Alternative, a film screening and presentation on photography to Chennai, on September 11, 2015. A screening of A Gathering at the Carnival Shop by Mochu, was followed with a presentation by P Madhavan on his experimentation with alternative photography practices, and his experiences with the Altlab Photography Residency, a flagship programme of Goa Centre for Alternative Photography (Goa-CAP), which was supported by IFA in its three initial years.

IFA collaborated with multiple partners including the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Bengaluru, Alliance Francaise of Madras, Chennai and Project 88, Mumbai to showcase our grantee Mochu's film, A Gathering at the Carnival Shop – that explores the work of the artist K Ramanujam from the perspective of a viewer. The screening in Mumbai on September 23, 2015 was made possible with the support of the Bajaj Group.

IFA Teacher Grantees - Prajna Hegde, Madhukar ML, Gururaj L and Chitra V (left to right) present their work, 
Rangoli Metro Art Center, Bangalore
Screening of A Gathering at the Carnival Shop, a film by Mochu at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bangalore

On September 27, F-1/105 – a play by Aasakta Kalamanch, Pune, was performed at Ranga Shankara, Bangalore. It weaves the personal and the political, the physical and the psychological, and takes you through stunning revelations on the various interpretations of colour.

We organised a very successful fundraiser with Motley performing a dramatised reading of Vikram Seth and James Thurber's Beastly Tales at Bangalore, with Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah, Kenny Desai and Heeba Shah. The event was sponsored by State Bank of Mysore, with Royal Orchid as the hospitality sponsor.

We organised six MaathuKathes during this period with Nakul Singh Sawhney, Nilanjan P Choudhury, Antara Art Collective, Gillo Theatre Repertory, Shashank Jayaprasad and Ameen Haque of The Storywallahs. We screened the documentary Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai – on the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013, and held an inspiring interaction post the screening, with director Nakul Sawhney. Nilanjan Choudhury read from his latest book – The Case of the Secretive Sister, featuring the quirky adventures of Mr Chatterjee from The Chatterjee Institute of Detection. Aparna Banerjee and Sudebi Thakurata of the Antara Collective presented, Body as a Site for Learning: Pedagogical Possiblities, an investigation of methods of inquiry through engagement with the body. Gillo Theatre Repertory's performance of Hanuman ki Ramayan, based on a short story by Devdutt Pattanaik, provided an intriguing peek to an alternative narrative of the Ramayan in nautanki sangeet. Shashank Jayaprasad took us on a journey through photographs from across India, talked about his experiments with digital, film and Polaroids, and introduced us to his tail wagging muse—dogs! And Ameen Haque brought tales of love and hope, of making relationships work and of believing in dreams, in a storytelling session on love, romance, passion and more.

From our MathuKaathes (clockwise) - The Bangalore Harmonica Club, Paul Mathew (Cheruvannur Diaries), 
Sarbari Gomes and Ajay Cadambi
MaathuKathe – Clockwise: Aparna Banerjee of the Antara Collective, Ameen Haque, Nakul Sawhney,
Nilanjan Choudhury, Gillo – Theatre Repertory, Shashank Jayaprasad and Sudebi Thakurata of the Antara Collective

Upcoming Events

The following events are scheduled for the next three months (event dates are subject to change):
bird_bullet BANGALORE  
  Project 560 – Found Spaces Festival
Ameen Haque, The Storywallahs

Mid – December, 2015
The festival will take place in many locations across Bangalore, including Chickpet, Yeshwantpur, Girinagar, Kasturba Road, Gandhi Nagar, and N R Colony among others. Please do follow us on social media or sign up for our emails via our website for updates on the festival.

bird_bullet NEW DELHI  
  Opening of National museum Exhibition
Ameen Haque, The Storywallahs

Mid – January, 2016
Abeer Gupta and Suchitra Balasubrahmanyan's curated exhibition with the Decorative Arts Department of the National Museum will re-stage the museum's collection of brocade saris to make the museum a more dynamic space.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive our updates. For more details, write to

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bird_bullet IFA announced Catalyst – Arts, an Inspiration for Excellence, in October, 2015. Catalyst is a unique initiative which will bring together 8 eminent artists, who will share their experiences about their pursuit of excellence at corporate venues. Please do view our gallery from the Press Conference held at the Press Club of Bangalore, as Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Vinita Bali, Abhishek Poddar and Arundhati Nag, talk about the role of the arts in moving and impacting lives.


We have an interesting set of publications to offer which include postcards featuring our grantees' work, books and back issues of our magazine ArtConnect. You can avail of special anniversary discounts on Limited Edition collections. All the proceeds from the sale of publications go back into grantmaking.
To know more, write to

IFA POSTCARDS Set 1 Beyond the Proscenium Embroidering Futures: ArtConnect Limited Edition
Introducing our first ever set of IFA POSTCARDS!
Own one today!
Suggested contribution:
Rs 200
For details, write to
Beyond the ProsceniumReimagining the Space for Performance
Edited by Anmol Vellani
176 pp., Rs 300, US $20
Click here to buy online.
Embroidering Futures:
Repurposing the Kantha

Edited by Ritu Sethi
192 pp., Rs 400, US $30
Click here to buy online.
20 years: Limited Edition - Set of 9 ArtConnect back issues
Buy Now at Rs 700 only
Click here to know more.
To buy ArtConnect, write to
Buy both and get a discount of Rs 100!
Click here to know more.

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Latika Gupta received an Archival Fellowship from IFA, supported by the Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation, to curate the permanent exhibition of the Munshi Aziz Bhatt Museum of Central Asian & Kargil Trade Artifacts, Kargil.

She studied at St Stephen's College and the Collage of Art and is currently pursuing a PhD in Visual Culture Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. She has received fellowships from Charles Wallace India Trust and Nehru Trust for research projects, and has worked as a curator at the National Gallery of Modern Art and KHOJ International Artists' Association in Delhi, besides curating independent exhibitions. Her recent publications include articles in MARG and Postdate: Photography and Inherited History in India published by the San Jose Museum of Art and University of California Press.

Stroke of the midnight hour as Hyderabad transitions from Andhra Pradesh to Telangana
Display case for saddles, straps and carpet bags and other animal accessories at the Munshi Aziz Bhatt Museum

IFA: Could you tell us a little bit about the unique history of the museum?

Latika Gupta: The Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum was established in Kargil in 2004 by two brothers Gulzar Husain Munshi and Ajaz Munshi, descendents of Munshi Aziz Bhat, a prominent trader in Kargil. In 1920, he established "Munshi Aziz Bhat and Sons" a family business with his two sons. He also set up the Aziz Bhat Sarai, the ruined structure of which can still be seen in the old Bazaar area of Kargil. This was apparently a central hub of trading activities in Kargil, with seven shops selling imported luxury goods and an inn for Central Asian trading caravans.

The bulk of the material that forms the museum collection was recovered from the Aziz Bhat Sarai. This includes animal accessories (saddles, harnesses, bells), imported personal use items (such as soap, razor blades, buttons), local and imported medicines, coins and currency, a range of textiles and clothing items (including embroidery edging, a miscellany of caps, boots, bolts of fabric, muslin turbans), stationery, dye boxes, imported torches and lamps, rugs and carpets, manuscripts, silver jewellery, educational pamphlets, magazines and newsletters from various countries abroad, and importantly also a rich collection of personal and trade correspondence in the form of telegraphs, revenue records, letters etc. The collection continues to grow, with donations from prominent families in the region and with the Munshi brothers acquiring a miscellany of goods they come across while travelling through villages in and around Kargil district.

The artifacts lay in storage until 2004 when Jaqueline Fewkes a visiting researcher from the UK stressed the importance of material artifacts and encouraged their preservation in the interest of history. The museum was thus set up in the attic of the Munshi residence which houses Gulzar Munshi and his family. Gulzar Munshi is the Director of the Museum, Ajaz Munshi the Curator and their nephew Muzammil Husain Munshi is in-charge of Outreach.

Workers deconstruct an image after the signing-in ceremony of the Chief Minister of India's newest state
Visitors at the Munshi Aziz Bhatt Museum's permanent collection curated by Latika Gupta –
Kargil: Crossroads of Trade and Culture

IFA: What interested you about working with the The Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum?

Latika Gupta: Curating a new permanent exhibition for the Kargil museum was of particular interest to me for a number of reasons. I had first visited the museum as a tourist in 2008 and had been struck by, one, the eclectic and unusual nature of the collection; two, the initiative taken by the Munshi family to begin a museum in the attic of their home; and three, the 'idea' of the museum that had been conceived of and translated into its form, based on the format of traditional ethnographic museums. Additionally, that there was little in the collection that could be called 'art'; that it was a museum of 'things', objects of use, of material culture; and the project combined my research and professional interests perfectly. The location of the museum in Kargil, on the border of India and Pakistan, within Buddhist dominated Ladakh in the state of Kashmir, made this project both challenging and important. The Museum's primary audience was tourists, both local and foreign, who spend a single night in Kargil while travelling between Leh, Srinagar and Zanskar. The Museum could potentially help re-position Kargil, which in popular imagination- particularly that of Indians- is viewed only within the paradigm of the 1999-2000 Kargil War. The Museum's collection of local and foreign goods could highlight Kargil's role as an important node on the trade routes and in cross cultural exchanges from places as far flung as Japan, America, Germany, Central Asia and China, and also underline the rich cosmopolitan history of the region.

The collaboration between the Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum, the IFA and the Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation for the Museum Fellowship presented an unusual opportunity for someone with my background to combine their professional and academic interests. Previously, I have worked as a curator at Khoj International Artists' Association, a not-for-profit cutting edge contemporary arts space and at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi, a state museum of modern art, besides curating exhibitions for private galleries and multi-city touring exhibitions on commission from international collections. My academic research as a PhD student focuses on material culture associated with Tibetan Buddhist ritual in the trans-Himalayan regions of Ladakh and Spiti.

IFA: How did you envision this project? What were some of the ideas that helped you frame the theme of the exhibition?

Latika Gupta: The curatorial process and strategies were formulated with the clear understanding that all the objects in the museum would be used in the new exhibition. Since this is a permanent display, a selected set of objects could not be used to weave a narrative. Accordingly, the research and fieldwork was done to unearth links that would underlie and connect the entire collection in a single exhibition. My primary objectives were to contextualise the trade artefacts and objects of everyday use in the museum by underlining the relationships between things and the people who used them, in order to activate historic objects to make them relevant to contemporary audiences. It was also important to be able to highlight the cosmopolitan history of the region, through the many communities and individuals associated with trade, who lived and worked in Kargil including porters, foreign travellers, traders and common and elite local customers. To highlight the importance of trade and the coming together of individuals and communities, I hoped, would also allow for an alternative reading and understanding of borders, and the politics of nationhood.

In terms of curatorial strategy, I was interested in the questions of how things of everyday use may be displayed and made interesting in a manner that goes beyond assigning value to objects based on age or monetary worth. How, for example, could these things be made relevant to contemporary audiences? Firstly for the locals, who may not be familiar with the region's cosmopolitan history and also bring their contexts embedded in local politics to their viewing of the museum, and secondly, for tourists from India and abroad. These concerns fed directly into the categorisation of the objects and the design of the display. My intention was to attempt to conceptualise as transparent a system of display as was possible to allow for the context in which these objects were found, used and first displayed, visible. The Munshi Aziz Bhat Sarai became the under arching motif for the exhibition, and an emblem of the position of Kargil on the trade routes and its cosmopolitanism due to the coming together of communities from towns like Amritsar and Hoshiarpur in Punjab, Yarkandis or Hors from Yarkand, merchants from Khotan, and Kashmiris and Tibetans. Accordingly, the exhibition was divided into sections in which things will be displayed according to their usage and circulation by the people who lived and passed through Kargil on the trade routes.

IFA: The exhibition was a great success, congratulations! What do you think the exhibition means for Kargil?

Latika Gupta: For me one of the most significant responses came during the inauguration. A large number of local Kargilis who had not previously visited the museum, engaged with the collection for the first time, and spoke about their own families' histories in Kargil before Independence in 1947. I can only hope that the remarkable cultural and political histories that are revealed through the material artifacts in the Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum have an impact on the positioning of Kargil in popular imagination and contemporary histories.

IFA: Do you think the Museum Fellowships supported by IFA could help to animate museum collections?

Latika Gupta: The Museum Fellowships certainly have the potential to impact existing institutions, in big and small ways. Whether it is the re-establishing of a small museum or curating a set of objects from a prestigious collection, the Fellowships encourage innovative thought and fresh approaches to looking at objects, animating them with new ideas, and presenting them in a variety of constellations. This having been said, the ambitions of the Fellowship and its Fellows would work to their fullest potential only with the complete cooperation of the partner organisations. Additionally, one of the great successes of the Museum Fellowship programme through the variety of institutions it works with would be the emergence of concepts on museums and their potential in India, and indeed across the world, where a single template cannot be applied, theoretically or conceptually.

Mobile still of Hyderabad's largest Ganpati
The organisational team behind Kargil: Crossroads of Trade and Culture.
(Bottom Row from Left to Right) Muzammil Husain Munshi (outreach and research at the museum),
Latika Gupta (curator – Kargil: Crossroads of Trade and Culture), Suman Gopinath (IFA programme officer for Archival and Museum Fellowships) and Ajaz Husain Munshi (curator of the museum)

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