Art is an intricate part of the culture. It has the power to change society by instilling important values, influencing opinions, and narrating experiences through time and space. Art is also a medium by which creatives can fully express their interpretation of reality to the rest of the world. As a result of its great importance to society at large, art preservation is important not just for our benefit, but also for those generations to come.
Art from Northeast India, for instance, is often a reflection of the culture of the people in the region and serves as a source of inspiration and enlightenment for the younger generation.
Art curators are tasked with the responsibility of preserving and promoting the region’s art. They implement and manage art collections and exhibitions to drive this duty. One of such professionals redefining art is entrepreneur and professional art curator; Pranamita Borgohain. With several notable experiences working in top art establishments, Pranamita truly is a well-seasoned professional in Indian art and culture. She previously has served as the deputy curator at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and as an art consultant at the Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi. She has also served as an assistant professor at College of Art, University of Delhi.
Her resumé speaks in loud volumes – revealing her talent, craftsmanship and leadership prowess. Pranamita also had a stint as an art consultant with Anant Art – a JK Group Initiative in New Delhi. She was one of the curators for the Students’ Biennale as part of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014, a well-known international art event of India, started in 2012, to showcase student artists across India. In her fold, she has curated more than forty exhibitions across India.
As an entrepreneur, Pranamita founded a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Shield Art Initiative. This organisation works on community art, alternative art practices and experimental art. Shield Art Initiative is aimed at promoting artistic excellence and also serves as a platform that connects North Eastern artists. Speaking on the story behind the initiative and her co-founders, she says Shield was founded by her and a friend, Suchismita. From the very beginning, both of them were focused on making it work.
“My husband is also from the same discipline, so he was really helpful. And fortunately, people started owning it and becoming a part of it – giving their voluntary support. And with collaborative support from other galleries and organisations, we have been working and moving on. Shield never had a physical space – it is a concept of being fluid and to embody the space where the event is taking place – for example, an art studio, a private gallery space or any other public space, says Pranamita.
As the literal meaning suggests, Shield has been conceived with the idea of a shade, a shelter, screen or cover, which would work within the edge of art in mundane life. “Our exhibitions feature artists, whose works promote awareness, provoke dialogue and inspire action. Shield intends to create a space for creation and experimentation of new ideas and artistic practice along with an exchange of thoughts and critical discourse,” she explains.
Pranamita acknowledges that the art culture in India has a lot to learn from that of other parts of the world. She highlights a few challenges that art currently faces. “There are many problems in the art sector including a lack of good colleges, pedagogy and desired support from government for the arts and artisans. Internationally there are lot of funds and grants for art and artists for the experimental and unconventional art unlike India. Indian market is mostly confined to conventional and decorative art.”
While some have been daunting, there are also a few challenges she has encountered that have served as stepping stones to her success. “Since I am not from a business family, I started with zero capital and voluntary support. So, fund raising or working for my own sustenance, as well as upholding my passion for Shield Arts have been a major struggle,” she adds.
On her recent plans and projects, the art connoisseur says, “As an independent art curator and writer, I am working on a few writing and curatorial projects. But as Shield Art, we are currently planning a post-Covid phase. During the lockdown phase we did a series of online dialogue between artists and curators. We connected so many young and mid-career artists to professional curators from different parts of India as well as internationally. Nothing has been formulated till now apart from small events like talks and exhibition walkthroughs for art students which we keep on doing for educational purposes.”
This diligent art curator doesn’t seem to be hitting the brakes anytime soon. She also reveals some other future plans that the public can look forward to. “I have a plan in the back of my mind to do some events in Assam where I can invite well-known artists from other parts of India and beyond. This will provide an opportunity for the local artists to interact and work closely with artists from around the world. At the same time will also create awareness among the general public towards different art forms, while helping our upcoming generation to have a wider perception towards the world and to be more sensitive to each other’s cultures. I also feel it can be a good boost to the tourism sector as well. Assam and the whole North East India has such rich natural beauty that is usually underrated due to sheer ignorance,” she says.