KARACHI: The feelings of mistrust and apathy towards the South-Asian community living in the US post 9/11 were worrisome for both sides and many initiatives have been taken up to resolve the issues arising from these harsh sentiments towards the community. One such initiative has been taken up by Zanbeel Art, a non-profit South Asian cultural resource organisation, based in Los Angeles, California.
A discussion, Building Bridges through Art, was organised by the FOMMA Trust in collaboration with ArtNow on Friday at the FOMMA-DHA centre. Zanbeel Art founder and director, Fatima Sultan, spoke at the occasion on how the organisation, founded in 2007, has since attempted to “bridge cultural boundaries by providing exposure to established and up-coming South Asian artists and conducting a variety of art-related educational programmes in the US and South Asia.” Sultan described her experiences of being a promoter of Pakistani cultural art in the US as a tremendously rewarding one. She asserted that the LA community had accepted the art exhibitions with an open heart and warmly welcomed the idea.
The first exhibition, South Asian American Art Festival in 2008, was a huge success, she said. Many artists through their work expressed their ideas which promoted the South-Asian culture. Siona Benjamin, a participating Jewish Indian artist, had addressed issues of religious identity which were a common problem for all immigrant communities settled in the US. Afghani artist Farooq Yousufzai, on the other hand, had charmed the audience with his colourful paintings on falcon-trading. Sultan shared that artists were hesitant in drawing attention towards the 9/11 incident, but opened up to the idea in subsequent events.
According to her, the event had become such a big success that it has now become an annual fixture. The organisation now holds an annual exhibition of works by artists and has become an important part of the LA social calendar, with many literary and media figures taking an active interest in the event.
Zanbeel Art is also involved in education programme where classes are conducted in LA public schools to educate students about the South Asian culture. The programme has been encouraged by the US State Department.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2013.