“Dialogue in Art”
The 2 nd South Asian American Art Festival 2009
By Firdosi Wharton Ali


Artists, diplomats and art enthusiasts at the 2nd South Asian American Art Festival 2009 “Dialogue in Art” sponsored by FFEM Zanbeelart on March 28, 2009

South Asian contemporary art market is under-explored in the USthough undeniably, it is a home to a plethora of artistic talent. South Asian artists of the Diaspora are responding to life in any country, more so in the US, and emerging into that moment of enlightenment.

The 2 nd South Asian American Art Festival 2009 “Dialogue in Art” sponsored by FFEM Zanbeelart held on March 28, 2009 coinciding with the Santa Monica annual “Art Walk” attracted an unprecedented crowd of 3000 from all walks of life.

Inside the bright sunlit galleries, walls draped with jewel toned artwork, it was clearly evident that cultures are more connected than they may seem and, in their differences, more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

Almost hundred contemporary art pieces by twenty-five artists from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Syria, and US were on display.

SAAAF 2009 established that the arts are an aspect of learning skills as evident by presentations of authors like Stephen Huyler “Daughters of in India,” Halide Salam “Between 2 Spaces: Reflections on the Spiritual in Art” and Marcella Nesom Sirhandi “Lubna Agha.” The presentations with slide shows were packed and many books on contemporary South Asian Art were sold out.

Artistic communication is a link between different communities encouraging South Asian Americans to feel a sense of pride and belonging. Some of the artwork clearly was a voice of those in most difficult circumstances or on the margins of society like the political mixed media of Tara Rashid called the “Crises” depicting in chronological order the disturbing flashes of Benazir Bhutto’s untimely death.

The similarities of Malaysian artist Ali Rahamad “ Gaza” to Edvard Munch (1893) “The Scream” was evident in expression and colors of three squares 12”x12” a protest to the Gaza massacres.

Masuma Halai Khwaja is an emerging artist from Karachi. She explores images of blindfolded men, protesting the wave of terrorism in many parts of the world, more so in Pakistan. In her own words, It is the struggle of ordinary people and not so ordinary lives that touch me to the core and I indulge in strokes of colors to document the present times.”

Afghani artist Ustad Yousef Kohzad’s vibrant artwork “Atan Dance II” was selected for the Santa Monica “Art Walk” postcard. Kohzad who was the Cultural Minister in Afghanistan during the 1970’s resides in Pleasanton, California.

Another Afghani artist Farooq Yousufzai, literally, produces museum quality works.

The lavish scenery in Guru Ka Chuk is a monumental task of linking historical and religious details of the Sikh “ Golden Temple.” Bushkazi is even more fascinating with fierce struggling of horses and religious icons depicting each movement and every detail of the events. He is the only artist in the world who specializes in Falcons. He takes pride in indulging in the details of this rare species in pastels. Ten of the twelve falcon series were on display and many stood in awe. “Awesome,” shouted the two children, emulating the power of this dynamic species.

Nasreen Haroon a US cultural envoy, displays her paintings in US embassies throughout the world. Her stunning landscapes with vibrant colors attracted many people as they were captivated by the beauty of nature.

Several calligraphic works were on display.

Halide Salam, an artist, a writer, and a professor at the Radford University in Virginia, created with jewel tones a splendid minar shaped calligraphy oil on canvas; a conversation of the spiritual which she elaborated in her live presentation and her book “Between 2 Spaces: Reflections on the Spiritual in Art” this was a stunning center piece of the exhibit.

Uzma Mirza, an architect, stepped beyond boundaries and produced a burst of energetic and delicate Arabic calligraphy.

Kinda Hibrawi explored vibrant colors with oil on canvas and traditional lettering in her splendid artwork.

S.A. Noory an emerging artist form Karachi refined his miniature techniques and layered the Arabic letters in sepia with watercolors.

Reem Hammad inscribed Arabic calligraphy on her delicate pottery explored whirling shapes, the movement of “whirling dervishes” signifying a spiritual message.

Veru Narula, a New York-based artist, created religious icons of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Islam melding the faiths.

Sandeep Mukherjee’s magnificent modern piece of art in black, white and grey is a perfect example of breaking the norm using acrylic, ink, gesso and Duralene. He experimented with mediums stepping beyond boundaries, and the result was truly significant in achieving perfect harmony.

Nahid Raz, an established artist from Karachi, indulges in women issues and boldly questions the cultural norm; her powerful images, similar in style to M.F. Hussein, painted with lush strokes of oil on canvas convey the message.

Durre Waseem’s bold, colorful brushwork and loose impressionistic style effectively capture the energy and feeling of her subject and establish a direct line of communication with the viewer. Her inspiration is usually an ordinary object, how its identity is defined by its environment, and how it becomes a part of its surroundings.

Antonio explores the metaphysical in the “Clone” stunning display of nine 9”x 9” square display in the entrance of the gallery. This painting involves theory that painting non-objective expressionist paintings are ultimately a spiritual act. With his work, Puri plays with the tension between the geometric and the organic, a means to control the chaos of everyday life. His works are in personal collections and many major galleries throughout the world.

The highlight of the event was “The Citizens Foundation” children’s art. The Consul General of Pakistan Syed Ibne Abbas and his wife Mrs. Sadaf Abbas decided to donate $1000 to TCF and encouraged the audience to pick out the three winners. Mr. Abbas’ donation was matched by another guest.

Pakistan Arts Council President Ayesha Kamran volunteered to make certificates for the three winners and the twelve participating students.

COPPA President Mr. Adnan Khan and the COPPA board enthusiastically participated and donated the delicious hors dourves for the event.

Attending the event were Consul Generals of Afghanistan Syed Mujtaba Ahmadi, Bangladesh Md. Abu Zafar, and Pakistan Syed Ibne Abbas.

The “South Asian American Art Festival” was sponsored by Zanbeelart, a chapter of “Foundation for Emerging Markets” a 501 (c) (3).

The Curator of SAAAF 2009 was Fatima Sultan.

Photographs courtesy of Scott Clarkson, Raeesa Tarr, and Aqueela Ather.




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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