Young Bharatnatyam dancer Malavika
Surukkai, a winner of the Raza Foundation award, performed in
S.H. Raza, one of the greatest surviving names in Indian
contemporary art, is walking in the footsteps of pioneering arts
promoter Rabindranath Tagore -- using his personal fortune to
bring young talent to light and also several new initiatives,
including a mammoth multi-arts festival and fellowships for
The artist, who turns 90 on Feb 22 and returned to India last year
after spending nearly 60 years in France, has donated Rs.3 crore
to build an arts corpus and has willed his entire fortune,
including his art works, to the corpus -- the Raza Foundation --
after his death.
The initiatives are symbolic of a fledgling trend in Indian arts
and culture space, which is trying to grow out of
institutionalised government control. In the first decade of the
20th century, Tagore had pledged his personal fortune for the
cause of arts and education to build Visva Bharati at
Shantiniketan -- but such efforts have been sporadic.
Noted poet and culture protagonist Ashok Vajpeyi, the executive
trustee of the Raza Foundation, said: "Raza's efforts can be
compared to those by Carnatic music exponent M.S. Subbulakshmi and
Pune-based theatre personality P.N. Deshpande, who donated their
personal fortunes to charity -- and hopefully to Rabindranath
Tagore, who was the champion."
A nine-day multi-arts festival Aviraam, from Feb 13-21, is the
first presented by the Raza Foundation and celebrates young visual
and contemporary arts.
The foundation has so far awarded Rs.100,000 each to 39 artists,
performers and poets, to help them further their arts.
An exhibition by 17 award winning young artists opened in the
capital Feb 13.
"The festival features 34 of the 39 recipients of the Raza
Foundation awards," Vajpeyi told IANS.
Vajpeyi said apart from the maiden multi-arts festival, the
foundation has also instituted a series of lectures under the
banner Art Matters in collaboration with the India International
Centre (IIC) to encourage public involvement in arts.
"It will cover topics like 'Democracy & Culture', 'Disappearing
Criticism' and 'Memory and Space for Creativity'," Vajpeyi said.
The memorial lectures have been named after V.S Gaitonde for arts,
Habib Tanvir for theatre, Agyeya for poetry, Kelucharan Mohapatra
for dance, Kumar Gandharva for music, Mani Kaul for cinema and
Daya Krishna for philosophy.
This year, the foundation has converted the awards to five annual
"The fellowships will be awarded to five young critics for visual
arts, poetry, music and dance. We feel that there is not critical
mass around the cultural area -- despite the widespread reportage
of events. We want to encourage critical activity around the
areas," Vajpeyi said.
On Feb 22, the foundation will launch, Samas (connection)-- its
maiden journal devoted to arts, culture and literature.
"I think that there are enough people in the world of art and
culture who can donate money to promote younger people," Vajpeyi
According to Vajpeyi, it was easier to channel funds through
private organisations because government institutions are tied
with procedural wrangles. "But the government keeps doing its own
thing," added Vajpeyi.
The Raza Foundation comprises seven members, including Ashok
Vajpeyi, gallerist Arun Vadehra, dancer Prerana Shrimali, poet and
critic Ranjit Hoskote and the artist, said artist Manish Pushkale,
one of the trustees of the foundation.
"The foundation is different from the organisations like the
Jackson-Pollock, Paul Klee, Picasso and Dali Foundation abroad in
its non-profit approach, to promote culture and revival of
dwindling art forms like Dhrupad. He uses his personal fortune,"
Pushkale told IANS.
Raza grew up in small towns of Madhya Pradesh and moved to Paris
on scholarship in 1950. The artist describes the foundation --
registered as a small body in 2001 -- as "his contribution to
young artistes who keep the Indian culture space vibrant".
Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)