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An Ode To Raza

The Raza Foundation has been going from strength to strength including more art forms and artistes into its fold, fuelling the cultural renaissance. Of late their endeavours have only intensified

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While the ambit of the arts is wide-ranging in the Indian cultural context, it is often a field that is neglected by investors, buyers and audiences alike. Encouragement and investment in the arts is part of the esteemed legacy of the late Indian modernist painter, Sayed Haider Raza. This work is now diligently carried out by the not for profit trust he established in 2001, the Raza Foundation.

Raza's interest in the arts was deep and interdisciplinary. While he lived and worked in France for over half a century, his studio resounded with the strains of musical concerts and he participated in multi-disciplinary performing arts festivals such as the Festival d'Avignon. With the establishment of the Raza Foundation he cemented his legacy as a patron of the arts in India which he continued to visit regularly. This work continues posthumously, spearheaded by the passionate trust, headed by celebrated poet and artist Ashok Vajpeyi who was groomed under the tutelage of Raza.

Managing Trustee Vajpayi says, "The main objective of the Foundation is to bring forth in public spaces imagination, creativity and ideas of the younger generation both at the creative level and also encourage their critical understanding and appreciation. The attempt is also to see the classical and the so-called modern or contemporary as a large continuum. We strive to promote new ideas about the arts, creating a more shared connoisseurship".

They have collaborated with many institutions, namely, India International Centre, India Habitat Centre, Alliance Française, etc in Delhi. Rohini Bhate Institute of Dance in Pune, Aakar Prakar in Kolkata, Ustad Bahauddin Dagar Dhrupad Centre in Mumbai, Kochi-Muziris Biennale and Kritya Poetry Festival in Kerala to cite a few. These activities provide a platform to primarily the younger artistes to project their works through a series of curated art exhibitions, music-dance recitals, poetry readings and workshops.

While it is a slowly evolving scene, it is mainly those who patronize art that come forth to support. While the founder SH Raza was the main financial benefactor, recently Krishna Sobti, the Hindi writer has contributed a substantial sum to the Foundation. Both of them believed that arts have a lot to share with each others, that younger generation must be helped and encouraged.

"The corporate sector is slow and reluctant to support arts, giving its Corporate Social Responsibility funds to other areas. Public institutions have sadly and disastrously diminished in relevance, vision and resources. In such an ethos some private initiatives are the only hope. The art market is yet to recover from the damage done by demonetization and GST. We are therefore grateful to a few dedicated artistes who are giving back to the field," says Vajpayi.

The Foundation continues the intrepid work, creating spaces, forums and publications to continue the honourable work begun by its namesake. One of the many projects spearheaded by the Raza Foundation is the Madhya Ma exhibition which opened in February 2018, the month of Raza Saheb's birth. It was a platform to showcase the works of artists from the state of Madhya Pradesh. The exhibition was in keeping with the spirit of Raza Saheb's heritage as one of the master abstractionists of India on the global stage. Many of the works featured were carefully curated to display contemporary Indian abstraction across ceramic sculpture, acrylics and textiles.

Another initiative undertaken by the Foundation is the Aarambh series. Raza Saheb was a great lover of both Indian classical music and dance. He was passionate about furthering the cause of struggling dancers and musicians; thus was born Aarambh, an initiative that features the talents of a young dancer and a young vocalist chosen by a panel of experts. In February 2018, it showcased the Hindustani vocal talents of Aditya Khandwe and a Bharatnatyam recital by Arohi Munshi at Alliance Française and Triveni Kala Sangam in Delhi. Aarambh has evolved into a monthly series and will exhibit the works of two performing artists every month to give impetus to the performing arts.

Suffice it to say that the good work of SH Raza continues through all the initiatives being undertaken to preserve the artistic and cultural treasures of India.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Shveta Bhagat

The author is a Delhi-based freelance writer

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