A photography exhibition in Dubai is showcasing South Asian artists

Dubai - A photography exhibition that presents several artists and collectives, never shown before institutionally, in a regional and international context


Purva Grover

Published: Thu 25 Mar 2021, 4:38 PM

Often, one laments at the lack of opportunities to devour the works of artists from South Asia. Not any more, though. An ongoing exhibition in Dubai is seeking to expand the framework of boundaries set by the geographical context of South Asia. Titled Growing Like A Tree, it is curated by Sohrab Hura and looks at the regional histories of image-making through a visual and sonic excavation of place, memory and culture. It showcases works of 14 artists, photographers and collectives from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Germany, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Singapore, including Farah Mulla, Sean Lee, Munem Wasif and archival photography by Nepal Picture Library that looks at the representation of women in public space.

Referencing the interconnected spheres of contemporary artistic practice, this show considers photography as a locus in an expanded field of art that includes videos, books and sound installations. In Hura’s words, “What I’ve been seeing over the years are collective flows in terms of movement and exchange of photographers across political, geographical and cultural boundaries. An osmosis-like relationship with photographers across borders has started to seep through, with each one searching for new ways to grow as artists and having at stake something in common that is far more urgent than photography.” It is Hura’s inaugural curatorial project as a photographer and filmmaker.

The exhibition presents several artists and collectives never shown before institutionally in a regional and international context, which is the essence of Ishara Art Foundation, the Dubai-based non-profit behind the event. Ishara looks at contemporary art practices from a South Asian context. “We have an expansive definition of the region, which includes the diaspora and overlapping histories of the region around India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Our exhibitions are research-driven and include new and established practices through monographic presentations, new commissions and touring exhibitions, developing new dialogues and exploring regional interconnections,” says Sabih Ahmed, associate director and curator, Ishara Art Foundation. The non-profit, is founded and supported by Dubai resident, collector and patron, Smita Prabhakar, and is the first permanent space in the Gulf dedicated to contemporary South Asian art.

The ensemble of artists and collectives include Aishwarya Arumbakkam, Anjali House, Bunu Dhungana, Farah Mulla, Jaisingh Nageswaran, Katrin Koenning, Munem Wasif, Nida Mehboob, Nepal Picture Library, Reetu Sattar, Sarker Protick, Sathish Kumar, Sean Lee and Yu Yu Myint, along with site-specific interventions by Hura. Together, the works reveal a network of collaborations across geographies, where a strong sense of community and exchange emerges in contemporary lens-based practices. The artists tackle themes like interconnectedness with the environment, changing cities, the politics of exclusion, collective memory, public space and the archive. The exhibition is accompanied by physical and virtual tours, educational and public online programmes, newly commissioned artist texts and artist conversations over the duration of the show.


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