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. They 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 Nepal Picture Library (NPL) in Kathmandu, the third conversation in this series focuses on the act of creating narratives of and from archives. This session brings together researchers, curators, and archivists from Nepal Picture Library in Kathmandu; Citizens Archive of Pakistan in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad; and Drik Picture Library in Dhaka to discuss their urgencies as citizens’ archives, and how they communicate to their audiences.
Diwas Raja Kc (Kathmandu, Nepal), Head of Research & Archives at Nepal Picture Library, speaks about the need for sustained reflection on archives and the changing strategies of archivists towards more collaborative and participatory approaches. Sophia Balagamwala (Karachi, Pakistan), an advisor at the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, looks at how systems of collecting, archiving, narrative building, and framing are able to create, reinforce, mask, or disrupt histories and existing bodies of knowledge. ASM Rezaur Rahman (Dhaka, Bangladesh), General Manager and Curator at Drik Picture Library, discusses the organisation’s community of citizen journalists, and how they capture less visible stories from crucial junctures in the country’s recent history.
This conversation draws from the queries and concerns of Nepal Picture Library, a digital photo archive run by photo.circle that strives to create a broad and inclusive visual archive of Nepali social and cultural history. Since its inception, NPL has collected over 120,000 photographs from various private and organisational sources across Nepal. The archive serves as a safe and open repository of materials that contribute to a multicultural and pluralist representation of Nepali history. It also functions as a platform for active public engagement through which Nepali people can form meaningful connections with the past. As part of its objective to create a visually dense version of Nepali history for and with public audiences, NPL has created a network of professionals with an interest or specialised knowledge in museum design, preservation, curation, exhibition, graphic design, oral history, writing, education, ethnography, visual culture, media, art history, photography, and publishing. This conversation draws from their conceptualisation of the relation between archives and narratives, particularly at a moment when digital media is radically redefining these relations.
Free and open to public with registration.
An online closed-door session will be held on Thursday, 7 Oct, at 5:00pm NPT (4:45pm IST; 7:15pm HKT) for archives from South Asia. This session will host Surajit Sarkar, Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Centre for Community Knowledge (CCK) at Ambedkar University, Delhi. As an Ethnological Research and Documentation Centre, CCK has initiated programmes, both urban and rural, that develop people-centred narratives of knowledge, history, and cultural transformations. Sarkar will talk about the circulation of narratives and archival materials in different contexts across India through exhibitions and multimedia-performances, and how they have catalysed community-generated histories of regions. Diwas Raja Kc will be the respondent for the presentation.
Those working in or with archives (in South Asia and beyond) interested in joining this closed-door session, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org for registration.
ASM Rezaur Rahman is the Curator and the General Manager of Drik, Bangladesh. He is also the Executive Director of Chobi Mela, an international festival of photography. Reza has curated many projects nationally and internationally which includes several exhibitions for Drik’s social justice series ‘No More’. His collaborations were presented at Drik Gallery, Dhaka Art Summit, Palais des Nations Geneva, Oslo Concerthus, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy etc. Reza was assigned by Bangladesh National Museum to curate a permanent gallery from their archive on Zainul Abedin. His last project from Drik’s archive on pioneer photographer Golam Kasem Daddy opened up opportunities for the young generation to experience social documentation from as early as 1920’s. Rahman is an Arthink South Asia Fellow and lecturer of Curatorial Practice at Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, Dhaka.
Diwas Raja Kc is currently the Head of Research & Archives at Nepal Picture Library, where his work has focused on engendering a research-based approach to artistic, archival, and curatorial practice. His curatorial show and subsequent photobook Dalit: A Quest for Dignity (2016) explored ways of witnessing Dalit pasts in Nepal. His co-curated exhibition The Public Life of Women (2018) monumentalised feminist pasts in Nepal as an intervention in public memory. He also works as a documentary film editor.
Sophia Balagamwala is a multidisciplinary artist and curator based in Karachi, Pakistan. Her practice explores questions of nationhood, histories, and the museum complex in South Asia. Her research is grounded in archives, and the act of narrative building within the museum context. She is currently advisor at the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, where she has played a curatorial role. She is curating a reading room at the COMO Museum, Lahore, to encourage research and create dialogue around local artist publications, and teaches at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. Previously, she was the Lead Curator of the National History Museum in Lahore.
Surajit Sarkar is Coordinator of the Centre for Community Knowledge and Associate Professor at Ambedkar University Delhi. He is currently Executive Member of the International Association of Agricultural Museums (AIMA). He is President of the Oral History Association of India (OHAI), and was on the Public Advisory Board of the Society for Cultural Anthropology (USA). In 2004, he co-founded the video and arts initiative Catapult Arts Caravan, a performance group of artists and community workers in Central and Northeast India. Combining oral narratives, public discussion, expressive art forms, and digital technologies, the outdoor interactive performances have been sites of reflection and discussion on local concerns.
This event is part of Mobile Library: Nepal, supported by the Foundation for Arts Initiatives.