This week was a challenging one for Pondy ART. We were informed by the Decision Makers that our time in the Old Distillery is limited. There are many great venues in Pondicherry and we have never considered that it was more than a temporary exhibition space. So this news, – although disappointing since we have already scheduled shows through March including Pondy Photo 2015 – is not an insurmountable challenge, is just another bump in the road.
However, those same Decision Makers informed Pondy ART organisers that our exhibitions focusing on building awareness of the issues challenging India today say nothing positive about India or Indians. We were challenged as to why we show only the ugly of India – the poverty, the lack of development, the struggle to survive. We were informed we should show positive development, the beauty and advances of today’s modern India. It was suggested that we focus on the wrong things and that we should change our focus to looking at the right ones.
So, we think it is time to ask the Public – all of you coming to our shows and who came to Pondy Photo 2014 – what do you think? These shows were and are created for you. Are we doing it right?
It is true, we often show work that focuses on challenged communities. Consider Padma Shri winner, Pablo Bartholomew’s summary of ten years of work documenting the stunningly costumed Nagas or the tattooed covered bodies of the Ramnamis presented by Yannick Cormier. Our photographers record the communities’ traditions from the inside. They study and capture lifestyles including the struggles involved, but also the intrinsic beauty and pride, offering a unique chance to see the group’s valuable place in the history and in today’s India. Photographers often provide written information about those communities’ challenges to survive against the environment, the growing development of their lands, their difficulties as India adjusts to a currency based economy and the influx of modern technology. Is this helpful in understanding groups in different parts of the country who live under different conditions? We need to know.
As suggested, we do show pollution, and waste, and poverty too. UNESCO award winner, Senthil Kumaran’s show focused on the effects of environmental pollution on otherwise pristine landscapes. These issues and others like these are challenges for every nation around the world, all the time. Are these issues part of development? Can we find positive solutions and preserve the incredible beauty, the glory, the traditions and the culture of this Incredible India as it moves forward by looking at them, learning about them, thinking about them? What do you think? We need to know.
And finally, yes, the Pondy ART team does have foreigners on it. We do look at things differently than the born Indian. How could we not? Waswo X. Waswo presented a show last October that focused on the challenges of intercultural relationships, the prejudices that exist on both sides and the effort required to open our minds in order to exist in a world with fewer and fewer borders. But doesn’t the Pondy ART initiative actually prove the possibilities of positive exchange? Foreigners are not the only party involved. There are many more Indians who support this project than foreigners; the majority of our photographers have been Indian – Varun Gupta, Rahul Dhankani, Kaushal Parikh, Shuchi Kapoor to name a few. The vast majority of journalists who cover the project from the Hindu, The Times of India, the Deccan Chronicle and Indian Express not to mention on and offline magazines are Indian. Most of our sponsors are Indian owned companies and Indian nationals. The majority of you, the Public who visit our shows are Indian, whether you are students, teachers, entrepreneurs, civil servants, artists or photography buffs. We don’t think you are coming because Pondy ART is showing the “ugly of India.” We hope you come because we show India from all its angles, with all its subtleties and its extremes; because we show great photography; because the exhibitions show things you, the Public, haven’t seen, want to see more of or hope to learn something from. We hope that it is understood that this initiative was created, and is run, with a love for India and that it isn’t about where we, three organisers, come from. But what do you think? We need to know.
We need to know so we can prove to those Decision Makers that we are doing what you, the PUBLIC wants; that you like it; and that you want us to keep right on doing it. If you support this initiative and our efforts to get art out there for you, please send us an email saying so to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pondy ART is only doing this for you. And we want to do it right.