India’s artistic history

India Foundation for the Arts has undertaken a significant task of archiving a vast artistic repertoire

India Foundation for the Arts has undertaken a significant task of archiving a vast artistic repertoire.

Arundhati Ghosh, executive director of India Foundation for the Arts (IFA), is engaged in serious discussion with Aarti Lohia, of Lohia Foundation, at the IFA’s archive space located at Ashwathnagar, RMV second stage. A lot of thought and planning is going into creating a momentous archive of the Arts, made possible from IFA, a renowned independent grant-making body.

Aarti has supported in creating this archive, with which she has been associated from scratch. “I wanted to involve myself with something that is new,” she says. Indeed, archiving the Arts is a necessary, yet daunting task, considering that some of it, in particular some performance arts, does not have much documentation available on it. “I was interested in this project because I want future generations, like my children, to know about the arts,” adds Aarti.

Arundhati says: “We are creating the design, architectural, and software for the archive. And we have collaborated with a funder who understands where we come from.”

The archiving will begin from 2005 up to the present and into the future. “A part of the digital archive will be open to the public,” says Arundhati, as she ushers me into a room with neatly arranged files on shelves. Two archivists, Shubham Roy Choudhury and Spandana Bhowmik, are busy at work.

“We want to invite scholars and artists to look at our material once it is ready,” Arundhati says, adding: “We are working on the first year of archiving, and will then make the archive public in a few years.”

It was quite a challenging collating and arranging the material, inform the archivists. “We just had boxes and files initially,” says Shubham. The other archivist, Spandana adds: “We then set about to make a plan.” As they went about the process, they discovered trivia that would be a wealth of information for researchers.

“The idea for Kamal Swaroop’s National-award winning film Rangbhoomi emerged from of the workshops that IFA had given a grant for,” says Shubham. He then takes out a quaint page with graphic designs, saying: “This is a page from India’s first graphic novel, The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers.”

The effort is well worth it, even though it entails tracking down material and getting permission from the artists, for it will create a foundation for future artistic practice. The endeavour of IFA has always been to bring to the fore the diverse and rich cultural and artistic tradition of the country. IFA has been committed to offering a platform to every kind of meaningful artistic creation that gives voice to myriad stories, histories, and experiences that make India the wondrous country that it is.