05 April 2012

Celebrating 20 years of Australia-India cultural exchange

RMIT Gallery’s latest exhibition in New Delhi celebrates 20 years of the Australia-India Council’s successful program of cultural exchanges between Indian and Australian visual artists, writers and musicians.

RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies said the work in Kindness/Udarta. Australia-India Cultural Exchange was extraordinary, and reflected the openness and diversity of the forces behind the initial cultural exchange.

Held at the Visual Arts Gallery at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, the exhibition draws from the new publication Kindness/Udarta, which provides a tangible record of 20 years of the AIC-supported cultural exchange program.

Australian audiences will have the opportunity to see the exhibition in Canberra in May and then at RMIT Gallery in Melbourne from June to August.

More than 117 writers and visual artists from Australian and India are involved, along with more than 23 musicians.

These include local identities Thomas Keneally, Alexis Wright, Les Murray, Robyn Beeche, Callum Morton and Jenny Watson; and high-profile Indian artists Haku Shah, Giriraj Prasad, Nalini Malani, Seema Kohli, Bharti Kher, Shilpa Gupta, Subodh Gupta, Pradyumna Kumar and Ranbir Singh Kaleka.

Dr Karan Singh, President, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, inaugurated the exhibition and launched the publication in March at the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

Dr Singh was joined at the launch by Chair of the Australia-India Council and former Australian High Commissioner to India, John McCarthy AO, and Australian High Commissioner to India, Dr Peter Varghese AO.

Mr Varghese said Kindness/Udarta. Australia-India Cultural Exchange was a journey of creativity, and of studying each other's cultures, traditions and lands.

Musicians Sandy Evans and Adrian Sherriff from The Australian Art Orchestra performed with Guru Kaaraikkudi Mani’s Sruthi Laya Ensemble. Celebrated authors Kiran Nagarkar and Christopher Kremmer also spoke at the launch.

The live performances at India Habitat Centre were broadcast by ABC Radio National and Radio Australia, with the entire project streamed live on the web.

The Australia-India Council has promoted the relationship between Australia and India since its foundation in 1992.

Ms Davies has served as a Board member of the Australia-India Council since 2004, and in 2009 served as Chair of the Board of the AIC.

She said that the contributing artists to Kindness/Udarta represent a significant sample of creative people who have experienced each other’s culture, visited each other’s country, worked together, and built relationships based on friendship and mutual respect.

“The AIC has enabled most of these creative relationships, either by direct funding or by financial support for organisations themselves engaged in promoting cross-cultural understanding through the arts, such as Asialink, Asia Pacific Triennial and Nataraj Cultural Centre, Melbourne,” she said.

“The concept of locating all creative participants from the beginning of the AIC was the suggestion of Asha Lele Das, AIC Country Manager at the Australian High Commission for that period. This evolved into the book, exhibition and cultural activities that are Kindness/Udarta.

“We thank RMIT Vice-Chancellor, Professor Margaret Gardner, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation, Professor Daine Alcorn, for the driving vision of a globally-focused university and the support to enable initiatives such as this to be realised.”

Ms Davies said participants were invited to respond with a poem or prose of no more than 300 words, or a small artwork that would fit into the dimensions a book.

Some works were created especially, while other images, texts and most particularly music performances, pre-existed and were submitted because they were considered pertinent.

Ms Davies said that in finding a name for the publication and exhibition, the nuances of meanings of the words daya, karuna, neki, namrata, sanbhavana, udarta were all considered.

“As we struggled to find a word that was neither patronising nor embedded in compassion, the process sharpened our awareness of the necessity of intercultural sensitivity,” Ms Davies said.

“The sum of the entire project is a beautifully presented statement of creative goodwill.”

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Ganesha and Kangaroo -friendship and love between India and Australia, 2001, by Pushpa Kumari (India).

Vrindavan by Robyn Beeche (Australia).

Suzanne Davies, Director and Chief Curator, RMIT Gallery, and Dr Alka Pande, Curator, Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre.

Dr Peter Varghese, Dr Karan Singh with the publication, and John McCarthy AO.

Guru Kaaraikkudi Mani at the opening.

Work by Djambawa Marawili and Liyawaday Wirrapanda and Jangarh Singh Shyam and Lado Bai (Australia and India collaboration).