Inter-Archives Conversations is a platform initiated by Asia Art Archive in India in conjunction with partnering institutions to facilitate interactions between art and cultural archives in the South Asia region. By engaging organisations, institutions, and individuals, this series explores forms, infrastructures, and the instituting of archives in the region, ensuring that less visible and more diverse histories, in particular those neglected by state institutions, are documented and made accessible to publics.
Organised in conjunction with Mobile Library: Nepal, the first set of programmes are hosted in collaboration with university archives, art and photography archives, libraries, and documentation centres in Nepal. These will take Nepal as a point of departure and South Asia as the context of discussion, with case studies from within and beyond South Asia.
Developed in collaboration with School of Arts, Department of Art & Design, Kathmandu University (KU Art+Design), the first conversation focuses on the circulation of personal art archives in the public domain. It explores how archiving processes have been embedded into university programmes and curricula, digitised materials made accessible for public platforms, and archives activated through artistic and curatorial interventions.
Roshan Mishra and Sujan Chitrakar (Kathmandu, Nepal), art educators that have been formative in laying the foundation for a formal archive of modern and contemporary art at Kathmandu University, discuss the processes of training students in archiving. Artist and art historian Samina Iqbal (Lahore, Pakistan) presents the research and digitisation processes she conducted with the personal archive of the Lahore-based artist and educator Salima Hashmi at AAA. Artist Sumon Wahed (Dhaka, Bangladesh) talks about his artistic and curatorial research with the archive of Zainul Abedin, an artist and educator from Bangladesh. This session expands on the processes that underlie artistic and scholarly investigations of personal archives—initiation, organisation, thinking about gaps, and locating the materials in broader histories.
The topics of these conversations resonate with the queries and vision of Roshan Mishra, Sujan Chitrakar, and their colleagues at KU Art+Design, who are working to establish an archive centre to house the ever-expanding materials, and to develop a digital portal as a resource for the university, the general public, and researchers. The paucity of documentation and teaching materials on visual arts from Nepal during the BFA classes compelled the department to rethink their pedagogical approaches. Initially, the students were encouraged to visit senior Nepali artists’ studios for in-person interviews, and to collect dossiers and related documents to share with their peers. Gradually, the process became a part of the curriculum and their dissertations during their final semesters.
Free and open to public with registration.
An online closed-door session will be held on Thursday, 25 February, at 7:45pm HKT (5:30pm NPT), for students in Nepal and early-career practitioners working with archives. This session will host Ishita Shah and Vallabhi Jalan from Bangalore, India, who will discuss their ongoing project Constructing Personal Archives as part of Curating for Culture; and Priyankar Chand, a scholar based in Kathmandu who has been digitising and researching the personal archive of Shashi Bikram Shah, his grandfather and an eminent artist from Nepal. The speakers will discuss the processes behind their projects, touching upon both technical and conceptual aspects.
For those working with archiving and digitisation, particularly of personal materials, and are interested in joining this closed-door session, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org for registration.
Constructing Personal Archives 2020 was envisaged as a four-month long incubation programme. Selected archiving projects were mentored in related techniques and practices with the intention to further the discourse about reimagining archival practices in the Global South. Each month, a new tool was introduced: digitisation, information management, story collecting and narrative building exercises, and working across various mediums for creative visualisation of the projects. Modes of engagement for this programme included day-long workshops, one-on-one discussions, group conversations, and internal presentations. Participating projects represented a wide variety of interests, from archiving family histories to engaging with community narratives or extending one’s own practice into building institutional archives. This programme culminates in February 2021, and has been hosted by Curating for Culture, a personal collective initiated by the designer and historian Ishita Shah, and supported by Vallabhi Jalan.
Priyankar Bahadur Chand is a researcher interested in the intersections of public health, history, and anthropology. He is a co-founder of Kala Kulo, an organisation dedicated to exploring the heterogeneous epistemologies and aesthetics of Nepal. He also manages the personal archives of Nepali modernist artist Shashi Bikram Shah, which includes nearly six decades of artworks, documents, photographs, and paraphernalia. He is a co-founder of Sickle Cell Nepal, a non-profit which works to improve access to health services for patients of hemoglobinopathies.
Samina Iqbal is a practicing artist, art historian, and academic currently based in Lahore, Pakistan. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary art of South Asia. She has been working as an independent researcher with Salima Hashmi Archive at AAA for the last three years, digitising the archival materials the artist and art educator has collected over several decades. The published and unpublished writings from Hashmi’s archive offer an illuminating entry point into art writing in Pakistan and highlight the work of women artists. Iqbal has also conducted a series of interviews with Hashmi, the transcripts of which supplement the materials in the archive. Iqbal is an Associate Professor in the Center for Media Studies, Art and Design at the Lahore School of Economics, Pakistan. She received a BFA from the National College of Arts Lahore in 1997, an MFA from the University of Minnesota in 2003, and a PhD in art historical studies from the Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond in 2016.
Sumon Wahed is a visual artist, researcher, and art educator based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is interested in exploring the local and global context of modernity and postmodernity in terms of his own identity, history, and practice. His research has been focused on the life’s work and personal archive of the Bangladeshi pioneer modern artist Zainul Abedin. While Abedin’s archive is not in public circulation, Wahed has embedded the materials within his visual arts practice, curated exhibitions, and consolidated publications. Wahed’s focus has been on Abedin’s critique of colonial regime, as well his foundational work in setting up the art institution presently named Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka. Wahed is an Assistant Professor and PhD researcher at the Department of Drawing and Painting, Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka.
This event is part of Mobile Library: Nepal, supported by the Foundation for Arts Initiatives.