Art bridges Indo-Oz gap

At a time when racial attacks against Indians in Australia are dominating headlines, here is a positive story of inter-cultural collaboration. Crosshatched, a recently launched exchange project between Indian folk artists and Australian artists, attempts to explore and expand art forms of the two nations and at the same time widen cultural understanding between the two.

Crosshatched took birth after Minhazz Majumdar, 40, co-founder of The Earth & Grass Workshop, met Sandra Bowkett, an Australian artist, at an international folk art conference in Chandigarh in 2007.”There are not many art exchanges between India and Australia,” says Majumdar of the impetus for the initiative, adding, “Crosshatched aims to explore art as a language in itself, and an experiment in what would emerge when Indian folk and Australian art meet.”

With support from the Australia India Council, the first phase of the program, three established folk artists from India — mithila artists Pradyumna Majumdar and Pushpa Kumari, and pattachitra artist Mantu Chitrakar — took a 5-week-long trip to Australia to interact with ceramic artists Ann Ferguson, Jan Palethorpe and Vipoo Srivilasa. There, they attended a 10-day linocut and etching workshop. These works were then showcased at Easey Street Artist Studio and Gallery, Melbourne. The workshop was greatly beneficial for artists from both countries as they discovered new techniques and showcased old ones.

The next step for Majumdar is to bring Australian artists to India. At the end of the day, her agenda is to get folk art on the world map and help it strike a balance with modern day demands. “The world gets to see Indian folk art, but only 18th and 19th century pieces in museums; it’s hardly the dynamic 21st century form of these arts,” she says, giving the example of pattachitra, that now depicts themes like HIV/AIDS and female foeticide.

“If Indian art and craft are to survive in the 21st century,” she says, “we’ve to see where is that fine line between tradition and modernity, and projects like this help to answer those questions.”

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