South Asian American Art Festival in Los Angeles
By Firdosi Wharton Ali

On February 23, 2008, The FFEM Zanbeel Art Foundation kicked off its lively and colorful weeklong exhibition of more than 150 works of art by 24 South Asian/American artists.
Through contemporary art, we see the scripture of our history in the making. These artists express the beauty of our diversely harmonic culture by remolding simple shapes, textures and colors into timeless visions that are drawn from the heart and power the imagination. 
South Asia has produced premier artists such as Hussain, Sadequin, Gulgee, and several others. At the same time, South Asia has produced a significant number of talented artists who have not been discovered. Empowering premier artists and helping promote the lively spirit of South Asia is the objective of FFEM Zanbeel art, and in doing so,  it seeks to pave the way for the existing artworks to help define our culture and generate new talent to follow beyond our time. 

Held at Arena 1 at the Santa Monica Art Studios, the exhibit hosted an audience of more than 300 people including dignitaries, art collectors, and curators who marveled at the expansive, introspective, and unique canvases and displayed artwork. Pakistani Conul General Syed Ibne Abbas remarked that “South Asian artist portrayed positive images of the region” and Councilman Bill Rosendahl proclaimed that this “South Asian American Art Festival is a great reflection of the South Asian community in the US.” The event was a first of its kind success and offered many different artistic interpretations of life from the perspective of varied and unique South Asian experiences.
Amina Ahmed, Director of IAAC Indo-American Arts Council based in New York, flew in for the occasion; her black and white charcoal on paper images from her collection of “roots and weeds” surely expresses concerns for our greater environmental issues. Gazala Chinwalla’s four seasons were luxuriant with several strokes of perfectly formed trees in cool and warm tones of changing seasons. Kuzana Ogg toils with natures as well in her brightly colored leaves.
Siona Benjamin of Indian Jewish descent resides in New Jersey and expresses her identity in a most unique manner of all-inclusive as an American wearing an Indian Jewish Sari. Tackling themes as topical as prescription drugs and their effects were seen on Prince Thomas’s canvases.
The audience and the artists intermingled enjoying delicious finger foods and colorful drinks carefully coordinated with the artwork on display by the event planner Gazala Dinshah.
Nasreen Haroon’s colorful scenes of Tuscany expressed the artist’s cheerful disposition; she is as passionate about her art as she is about traveling. US State Department has appointed her an envoy to UAE.

There were other artists who flew in from various parts of the US. Salma Arastu came from Oakland California, her works varied form oil on canvas to sculpture, and she is amazingly diverse expressing togetherness and harmony in most of her artwork whether it is “The bride” or the beautiful cascading homes of San Francisco. Veru Narula from New York fascinated the young audience by his “Fast Forward Civilization” which clearly relates to the present-day advancement in every aspect of life including globalization. Riffi Ahmad from San Diego captured scenes of the Clifton Beach and an old man. A guest, who lived in Karachi and migrated to India in 1947, tearfully cherished memories of days bygone, admiring one of Riffi’s scenic artwork.
On the left side of the entrance was this amazing three dimensional piece, stretched on canvas in the shape of a cone using the colors of the Bruins; the artists was Reeta Karmarkar, a long time resident of Los Angeles and takes great pride in using the colors of her favorite sport teams. Delna Dastur shows amazing array of colors on canvas, her choice of objects are brilliant.
Other local artists were Natasha Shoro and Bushra Chaudry Tara Rashid and Carole J. Wilson. Natasha’s style is Arabesque inspired by the Turkish turbans; however, she manages to weave an amazing aerial views of the cities. Bushra expresses her identity in a distinct manner, she unites the continents and erases borders. Tara Rashid was most passionate about her burqa-clad women, positioning them such that portrayed the plight and despair of women. Carole Wilson expressed peace and harmony on her large brightly colored canvases.
Farooq Yousufzai whose artworks “The Grand Auction” and “Well My Bird” were magnificent takes pride in delving in the historical aspects of the regions Afghanistan and amazingly portrays the details of trading falcons and horses in the Arabian deserts.
FFEM Zanbeel art presented few artists from Karachi: Aziz Hasan, Tabinda Chinoy, Wahab Jaffer, AQ Arif, and S.A. Noory
Wahab Jaffer a well-known artist in Pakistan, clearly has mastery on his art, the most delicate and precise images of women’s facial structure, more in the style of cubism. Aziz Hasan’s science fiction in deep colors seemed to attract a large crowd. Tabinda Chinoy portrays hope, happiness in her women’s portraits. Aq Arif, an artist who is deeply concerned about the preservation of historical monuments, captures stunning outline of Minars. Noorys captures the images of Sufis, the dervishes who introduced Islam to the regions by way of all-inclusive in a manner of peace and acceptance.
Artists from India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and of South Asian decent came together to express diversity and commonality through creativity and association. “The Los Angeles area will continue to be our headquarters as we branch out and host other shows around the world,” says FFEM Zanbeel Art Managing Curator Fatima Sultan Khan. 
The artwork is on sale and for more info or to visit the virtual gallery you can click on


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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