India has a long evolution of sculpture be it in stone, metal, wood, ivory or any other material. The stone carvings found on the walls and pillars of temples are not there merely for a decorative purpose, though they do lend a lot of splendour to the structures they are in. They have been placed or carved in situ, in particular places in temples as per the traditions of the Agama Sastras. They have also been made according to the details in ancient Silpa texts prescribed for sculpting such images. People ingrained in these scriptures will well understand their form and meaning and therefore their appreciation will be automatic.
However, the casual visitor to a temple studded with carvings, or to museums where artefacts have been housed may possibly not know how to understand or appreciate a particular sculpture. The beauty of the carving will be all too palpable, but to go beyond that may be somewhat of a challenge. This is where the need to be trained to appreciate, arises. It is mandatory to know many, or at least some of the more important episodes, mentioned in Indias ancient literature or else the background story to a particular sculpture will be totally lost.
This lecture, accompanied with many visuals, is designed to help the participant appreciate the nuances of the art of ancient and medieval India.
Chithra Madhavan has a Ph.D. in Ancient History and Archaeology from the University of Mysore. Chithra has authored nine books - History and Culture of Tamil Nadu (in two volumes), Vishnu Temples of South India (in five volumes) and Sanskrit Education and Literature in Ancient and Medieval Tamil Nadu An Epigraphical Study and Temples of Kanchipuram. She has written the text for a coffee-table book Snapshots Of A Bygone Era- A Century of Images which contains about a 100 photographs of monuments of India. She has also co-edited a book South India Heritage which contains 500 articles on various aspects of South Indias heritage and culture and has edited a book on sculpture for Kalakshetra Foundation which contains twenty articles on iconography by well-known authors on this subject. She is also the editor of three books on the Ranganatha Swami temple, Srirangam, the Varadaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram and the temples in Srivilliputtur.
Chithra is guest faculty at Kalakshetra Foundation, the Asian College of Journalism and DakshinaChitra. She frequently conducts heritage tours to places of historical and archaeological interest in India and abroad.
A safe and welcoming space for participants to learn how to harness their creativity and explore how to best manage and enhance their creative writing practices. The workshop will combine a variety of activities, from creative writing exercises, to the art of critique, to identifying goals and designing personalized creative practice maps.
Over the two workshops participants will have the opportunity to
Anne Tannam is an Irish poet living in Dublin. Her first book of poetry, Take This Life was published in 2011 and her second collection Tides Shifting Across My Sitting Room Floor is forthcoming with Salmon Poetry in Spring 2017. Anne has performed her work at spoken word festivals across Ireland. She co-founded the Dublin Writers' Forum; a weekly, per-led support group for Dublin based writers, and is a qualified creative coach.
Anne is involved in the collaborative poetry project All the Worlds Between co-facilitated by K Srilata, which involves poets based mainly in India and Ireland and some in between, playing with issues of identity. An anthology of the work will be published by Yoda Press in 2018.
Sue Butler will offer a "close-up and personal experience of poetry", She plans to meet participants in small groups and work with them on close readings and analysis of their own poems. During the first session, she will suggest exercises that participants can try before meeting the next weekend.
Sue Butler is Poetry Editor for Writers' Forum Magazine and Writer in Residence at the internationally renowned Beth Chatto Gardens. Sue has published a number of poetry collections and has run creative writing workshops for the University of Cambridge, Opera North, UK councils and various literary festivals. She works as a commercial copywriter and has written for TV programmes, educational multimedia and the Malaysian Civil Service as well as pharmaceutical and weight-loss companies. Sue's hobbies include gardening and yoga. She currently lives on the East Coast of England, surrounded by salt-marsh.
Mesoamerica Resiste is a graphic produced by the Beehive Design Collective that was 9 years in the making! This double-sided, folding poster illustrates stories of resistance, resilience, and solidarity from Mexico to Colombia. A map drawn in old colonial style depicts the modern invasion of megaprojects planned for the region and opens to reveal the view from below, where communities are organizing locally and across borders to defend land and traditions, protect cultural and ecological diversity, and build alternative economies.
Tyler Norman is a member of the Beehive Design Collective. The Beehive Design Collective is a wildly motivated, all-volunteer, activist arts collective dedicated to “cross-pollinating the grassroots” by creating collaborative, anti-copyright images for use as educational and organizing tools. The Collective works as word-to-image translators of complex global stories, shared with them through conversations with affected communities.
The Islamic heritage of Tamil Nadu can be broadly classified into two distinct categories: The Tamil and the Urdu. The first was born out of the more than 2000 year old trade contacts Tamizhagam had with West Asia, while the latter came through the conquest, almost 1000 years after Islam first appeared in the Tamil country.
Tamizhagam was right at the heart of the more than 2000 year old spice trade that connected Asia, Africa and Europe. The trade not only brought goods, but also resulted in exchange of ideas. It was through this trade that Islam came to Tamizhagam in the 7th Century, even as it was blossoming across the sandy deserts of Arabia, and led to the evolution of the Tamil and the Malayali Mapilla Muslim communities. With the patronage of the local rulers like the Cheras, Cholas and the Pandyas, mosques were built in the architectural traditions of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The morning session will also look at the literary contributions, Sufism and other syncretic traditions. This will be accompanied by a screening of the film Yaadhum (Everything).
The afternoon session will look at the other Islamic heritage that came about with the advent of the short lived Madurai Sultanate in the 14th Century, the Deccani Sultans of the 17th Century, the 'Nawabs of Arcot', Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan in the 18th Century. This will be followed by a field trip to Kovalam to see a Tamil Muslim mosque and also experience the Dargha.
S. Anwar started his career as a freelance Journalist, working with Aside, a Chennai based fortnightly. As an independent researcher Anwar has been focusing on South Indian history, in particular the much misunderstood Muslim history. He is also a contributor to the "Madras Gazetteer Project", which documents the history of Madras that is Chennai from 1600 to 2000 CE.
In an effort to highlight our rich history and diversity, Anwar conducts heritage walks and tours on topics as varied as "In the footsteps of St. Francis Xavier", "Buddha Kanchi and Jaina Kanchi(puram)" and "Walajah Trail — Tracing the history of the Nawabs of Arcot".
As a documentary film maker Anwar focuses on historical subjects. He was commissioned by the Archaeological Survey of India to make a series of short films on the Big Temple at Thanjavur, made in commemoration of the 1000th year celebrations of the famous World Heritage Monument. His latest documentary film Yaadhum explores his Tamil Muslim identity and history. Yaadhum was featured in the prestigious "Hindu Lit for Life Festival, 2014" held at Chennai.
The sprawling temple-complexes of South India have been admired the world over for their magnificent architecture and sculptural wealth. However, few know that these huge temples are the result of hundreds of years of architectural development. The earliest temples were structures built of brick or wood, perhaps supported by metal. This was followed by the 'cave-temple' tradition–shrines painstakingly carved by scooping out hard rock. Alongside came the monolithic shrines hewn out of single boulders or a hillside. Subsequently, the structural stone temples came into place. Initially fairly small shrines, they gradually became larger and more ornate with carvings on the walls and pillars. The tall gopurams, which are the most eye-catching feature of South Indian temples, especially in Tamil Nadu, were once very short and insignificant structures. Over time, these became taller and bigger, resulting in the finest ones we now see in temples in Srirangam, Madurai, Srivilliputtur. Mandapas (pillared pavilions), which were once small structures, evolved into huge spaces, consisting sometimes of a 100 monolithic and sometimes a 1000 monolithic pillars.
These lectures will deal with the evolution of temple architecture in South India and will elaborate on the sculptural beauty they are embellished with–in stone, metal, stucco and wood.
Chithra Madhavan has an M.A. and M.Phil. from the Department of Indian History, University of Madras and a Ph.D. from the Department of Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Mysore. She is the recipient of two post-doctoral fellowships from the Department of Culture, Government of India and from the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi. She is the author of six books–History and Culture of Tamil Nadu (two volumes), Vishnu Temples of South India (three volumes) and Sanskrit Education and Literature in Ancient and Medieval Tamil Nadu. She has written the text for a coffee-table book Snapshots Of A Bygone Era–A Century of Images. Chithra has co-edited a book South India Heritage–An Introduction containing approximately 500 articles on various aspects of the heritage and culture of South India. She has also compiled a book Kalakshetra Reflections–Sculpture. Chithra is a guest lecturer at Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai, and at the Arts Management programme of DakshinaChitra, Chennai.
This is a course for those who enjoy movies and would like to deepen their appreciation of this medium. The objective is to discuss various aspects of film making, with specific reference to Hollywood cinema, so as to get a better understanding of some of the different genres of filmmaking.
Each day will have two sessions. In the morning session, a film in a particular genre will be screened. The afternoon session will consist of a discussion on the film, led by Parvathi Nayar. During this discussion, aspects of filmmaking such as the nature and history of the specific genre, the director, screenplay, editing, sound etc. will be highlighted.
This will be followed by a few short clips from other films in the same or closely related genres. The participants will then write a short review of the film, eiher individually or in groups, that will be read out and discussed.
The genres to be covered are Science Fiction, Literary Print to Screen and Horror.
Parvathi Nayar is a Chennai-based artist, journalist and writer. Parvathi's writing includes commentaries and reviews on film, which have appeared in publications in India and abroad, including newspapers such as The Hindu and The Business Times Singapore. In the course of her career she has interviewed filmmakers such as Peter Weir and Baz Luhrmann. She has also presented a TV show on alternate cinema in Singapore.
Aspects of cinema also influence her art, which is a hybrid of draughtsmanship and painting, video and sculpture. She has worked with imagery from films in such series as Forensic Cinema, and also uses moving images to create video art works. She encourages viewers to see in new, and challenging, ways the world they thought they knew. Parvathi did her Masters in Fine Art from Central St Martins College of Art and Design, London, on a Chevening scholarship from the British government.
An interaction with Bharatanatyam through an exploration of its integral aspects — rhythm, emotions, and expressions. The three-Saturday lecture-series will allow those unfamiliar with this dance form, a peek into how a dancer translates a thought/idea/story/influence around him/her on to stage using these elements and in turn, establishes a communication with her audience, at a very deep, intense and personal level. Through this process of de-mystification, Bharatanatyam will also become very interesting and more importantly, accessible, to one and all.
Priyadarsini Govind is one of the foremost Bharatanatyam dancers among the current generation. Trained by two stalwarts, Kalaimamani S.K. Rajarathnam Pillai and Padma Bhushan Smt. Kalanidhi Naryanan, Priyadarsini has imbibed this art form from the best. With her natural aptitude for abhinaya coupled with her passion and dedication to her art, Priyadarsini has become a flag bearer for Smt. Kalanidhi's padam repertoire. Priyadarsini's nritta or pure dance is intense and vigorous. A dancer known for her adherence to tradition, Priyadarsini manages to seamlessly blend new choreography with the traditional, thereby gently redefining the boundaries of Bharatanatyam repertoire.
Priyadarsini gave her maiden performance ('arangetram') in 1974. In her career, spanning two decades, Priyadarsini has performed in prestigious venues all over India and the globe. She has performed in several countries including France, Spain, USA, Japan, Israel, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Norway.
Valmiki's Ramayana is, arguably, the oldest, extant version we have the story of Rama: a righteous prince, unfairly exiled into the forest for 14 years, his lovely wife, Sita, abducted by a powerful and charismatic rakshsasa, his alliance with the magical monkeys, his defeat of Ravana and eventually, his suspicions about Sita and her chastity.
Simultaneously an exquisite poem, an epic and a cultural metaphor for India, the story of Rama pervades our imaginations and our artistic expressions. But Valmiki's text remains shrouded, veiled by its classical language, superseded by its local language variants, out of reach for political and social reasons. This course offers an opportunity to consider this magnificent text, the only one where Rama's divinity is ambiguous, if not doubtful. With the possibility of Rama as a flawed human being, rather than being a closed canon, the text opens itself to readings and interpretations for the 21st century individual. Does the text teach us something about ourselves? Is the idea of Rama as the maryada puroshottama relevant at all to us? Can we read the text as an aching story of longing, of love unfulfilled, of destiny destroying the soul of a person?
A close reading of Valmiki's Ramayana in translation will allow us to address these and other existential questions about ourselves as well as about a literary character, political hero and religious paradigm.
Arshia Sattar has a PhD in South Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago, where her teachers were AK Ramanujan and Wendy Doniger. Arshia has worked with Valmiki's text for over 25 years and now teaches classical Indian literatures and narratives in various academic institutions across the country.
This course will introduce participants to aspects central to Karnatik music:
Raga, different types of compositional forms and essential elements of improvisational music. Practiced predominantly in the Southern regions of India, Karnatik music as presented today has a history of about 500 hundred years. The essential elements of the music are Raga (abstract melodic identity), Tala (A structured cyclical rhythmic form) and Sahitya (Lyrics). In the interaction of the three exists the aesthetics of Karnatik music. Karnatik music strikes a fine balance between compositional music (Kalpita Sangita) and improvisation music (Manodharma Sangita). These do not exist independently; in fact each of their existence is dependent on the other.
Karnatik music has over ten different compositional forms and five major improvisational methods used in its presentation. The lyrics used in Karnatik music compositions are written mainly in the languages Samskrtam, Telugu, Tamizh or Kannada. One has to be both a lyricist and a musician to be composer. The improvisational aspects of Karnatik music make the music robust and ever evolving. Every musician adds a new dimension to the Ragas and Talas thereby keeping the music alive. A quality musician must know numerous compositions and at the same time be a creative musician who can expand the horizons of the art form. This form is primarily a vocal music tradition where even instrumentalists try to sound as close to the human voice in their musical expression as possible.
Vidvan T.M. Krishna is at the forefront of classical vocalists in India today and is known in the musical world as a classicist. Having trained under Bhagavatulu Seetarama Sarma, Chengalpet Ranganathan and Semmengudi Srinivasiyer, his tremendous stage presence, his awe inspiring voice, his great scholarship and his ability to transcend cultural borders make him a great representative of Karnatik classical music.
A multi-faceted personality, he contributes to Karnatik music in numerous ways other than performing. He has started and is involved in many organisations whose work spans the whole spectrum of Karnatik music, including research, archiving and documentation, taking Karnatik music to various parts of society and to smaller towns and villages, conducting festivals focused at the youth, and supporting artists from rural South India.
He has lectured in IIM Bangalore, IIT Madras, CII, Harvard University and other prestigious institutions. He has coauthored "Voices within", a book dedicated to some of the greats of Karnatik music, and contributes regularly to various journals and newspapers.
In the Indian context, the pursuit of aesthetics was always integral to daily lived life, to our civilizational enterprise over a couple of millennia. Sensuality was something that was experienced daily. Contemporary modernity brought rupture to this universe of holistic concerns. The colonial interregnum brought its own distortions to traditional systems of thought and expression.
Keeping this background in mind, this course on Art Appreciation will focus on the past 150 years of engagement with diverse arts in India. It will concern itself with the range of Visual and Performing arts as well as with the ideas that have shaped India and the world during this period.
Along with shaping the frame for art appreciation, the course will engage with aspects of the reception of arts. It will deal with a range of themes such as audience formation, sabha culture, connoisseurship, scholarship, media interventions etc. The attempt will be to look closely at some of the formative moments of constructions of identity, self-immersion, institution building, empirical transformations and critical engagements.
Sadanand Menon is a nationally reputed "arts editor", popular teacher of "cultural journalism", widely published columnist and photographer, arts curator and prolific speaker at seminars on politics, ecology and the arts.
A former Arts Editor with India's leading financial daily The Economic Times, he is currently Adjunct Faculty, Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, as well as at IIT Madras, Chennai. He is on the Executive Board, Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi; on the Apex Advisory Panel, National Museum, Delhi; and is Managing Trustee of the arts foundation, SPACES, Chennai.
The exhibitions he has curated include a major fifty-years retrospective of Dashrath Patel for the National Gallery of Modern Art, in New Delhi and Mumbai. His photographs have been included in anthologies of the best photographic work from India and he was Editorial Advisor, 'Better Photography', Mumbai.
A long-time collaborator with the late dancer/choreographer Chandralekha, he is deeply involved with issues connected with the creation of a contemporary Indian dance and has travelled extensively in India and abroad as the "lights designer" of Chandralekha's performances.
Online talks, 2021
During the pandemic, the CMI Arts Initiative conducted a series of online talks and readings by writers. Details of the talks are given below.