Successful meeting of independently operating Asian artists

January 2009 -

A change of mentality is seriously needed in Asia's art world. At least that is the conviction of the Indian actress Sanjana Kapoor. During the conference Culture Asia: Connecting Asian Cultural Actors held late in December 2008 in Bangalore, India, Kapoor emphasised the fact that money is not really the major issue. "The relationships that are often still feudal, especially in India, make changes extremely difficult. Our museums look horrible and that is primarily due to a lack of policy. We have also contributed to that. We are all concerned with our own little bit of art and do not look ahead enough", says Kapoor.

Writers, artists, film makers and actors shared opinions and practical information about their working conditions. As far as known, this was the first time that independently operating artists met in Asia. One of the organisers, Paul van Paaschen of Hivos: "We noticed that many of the participants thought it was strange that they were considered Asians. To them, that is still a stigmatising label left over from the colonial past. Africans, for example, experience much more solidarity."

Van Paaschen was also closely involved in The Arterial, a conference held in Senegal in 2007 focusing on establishing networks between independent artists. "At that conference a relatively dynamic group of people was formed that have taken a variety of initiatives. The participants at the conference in Bangalore were less decisive. That does not change the fact, however, that we can look back on a successful meeting that many experienced as inspiring. It was a melting pot of people and ideas. Of course, that was to be expected."

"In addition to many people from India, there were also participants from countries in Central Asia, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan en Mongolia. They have little in common with people from India or Sri Lanka. Many even considered Indonesia to be an entirely different world. A representative from the artistic group Ruangrupa in Indonesia talked about the O.K. Video Festival in Jakarta. That was an enormous eye-opener for many of the participants. A variety of the participants now also hope to attend the next edition of that festival in search of inspiration. Whether some kind of network will ultimately evolve from the conference remains to be seen, but we will certainly stimulate further cooperation."

The conference Culture Asia: Connecting Asian Cultural Actors was organized by Hivos, Open Society Institute and the Center for the Study of Culture and Society.