Monthly Archives: May 2018

India Urgently Requires a System of Cultural Management @navinajafa

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I41BSPPHRKk

IGNCA

A version of this article was published as an editorial in the Indian Express

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/culture-needs-a-plan/

In my article in the Wire (https://thewire.in/culture/adopt-a-heritage-scheme-problems-and-solutions) on the recently launched scheme called Adopt a Heritage by the Government of India as a form of initiating public private partnership there was a mention of the lack of Cultural Management study programs in India.

This article is a short critique on the subject along with solutions.

Earlier last year the Indian Express reported that State Funded Cultural institutions have been asked to generate revenue amounting to 25-30 per cent of their budget initially and “eventually” achieve “self-sufficiency”. The idea will remain utopian unless professional cultural managers are inducted to lead these institutions.

The major anomaly is that neither does India have a cultural policy nor does it have any cultural management academic structures.

The government needs to create a cadre of professional cultural managers which calls for professionals with a host of skills and training. Among which is the requirement to be sensitive and knowledgeable about the wide, diverse and complex cultures and traditions of the Subcontinent. Such persons alone will be able to create business plans for these decadent institutions, provide a vision to connect them to audiences and “markets”, evolve practical strategies to conserve traditional knowledge skills and creative expressions. In the process, only then will these organizations be able to create both self-sustainability and renewed relevance for society, today they are white elephants.

Presently, most of these institutions are led either by artists (performing or visual) who have no idea of or training in administration, policy or management. Or, they are run or controlled by non-specialist bureaucrats. The few professional cultural mangers in the country are not motivated to join or head these institutions since they are unable to provide appropriate remuneration and perks and, most importantly, ensure functional autonomy. The dearth of professional cultural managers is unlikely to be addressed soon since not one eminent management institute in the country offers a programme on cultural management.

Most state-run cultural institutions across India have been unable to chart a meaningful functional role for either creative communities or for the preservation of their cultural traditions. Outreach programs that can make their creativity relevant have also not been created.

Cultural ecosystems are rocked when a cultural skill or knowledge system dies similar to when an animal species is reduced, hence large number of knowledge eco systems related to performing arts, linguistics, and crafts are endangered along with  Massive Deskilling And marginalization of large number of  Creative Communities.

There Is No Cultural Policy That Offers a Holistic and realistic approach to this complex and contested terrain. Committees to formulate policies are mostly formed with artists and cultural academicians; rarely are cultural management professionals or cultural economists invited to join them. Not surprisingly, these committees are unable evolve strategies that will ensure sustainability and conservation of creative communities, and other manifestations of the repositories of our rich cultural heritage.

In the absence of professional cultural managers, bureaucrats in charge of these institutions take up the task of making India’s great cultural heritage visible on the international cultural map. For example, the Festival of India model has not evolved since its inception in the 1980s. The exhibition model frozen and a major reason remains that many of the traditions presented have not been upgraded, and new thoughts of presentation not addressed. Similarly, Those in power are pressured to cope with international terms and frameworks and find themselves groping to address international cultural administrative jargon and fail to address these conceptual frameworks keeping in mind and ensuring the Indian  context and interest.

For instance, there is recently great attention given to ideas of cultural mapping and conservation of intangible heritage both by government and non-government institutions. However, there is a dearth of people who actually understand these complex issues or have any idea on the methodology to collect such a data which will involve large sum of public money, nor are they equipped to develop strategies to use the collected data, such that this exercise ensures sustainability of traditions and tradition bearers and creates welfare impact, poverty aversion and social transformation. Just passing directions to create themselves as sustainable organization will not generate the results, nor will choice of leasing land and infrastructure of these institutes to corporate provide a new functionality to the Cultural institutions.

There are, of course, people committed to the field of cultural management and economics. The question is if the government will induct them as professionals, as they do with scientists, health professionals and economists? The other point to note is that initiatives by organizations such as  United State India Education Foundation does offer Fulbright Scholarships on this subject, but the push has to come from within.  If the cultural sphere is not addressed in a systematic, detached and professional manner, we risk losing huge capital. Culture is too precious to be left Ram bharose!

Navina Jafa

 Vice President of Centre for New Perspective works  on Traditional Skills and Sustainable Development, is an academic on Heritage Studies, Tourism and A Kathak Dancer and Dance Scholar. 

Follow on Twitter @navinajafa

Website www.navinajafa.com

 

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Ghalib: A Cultural Metaphor of His Time Follow – @navinajafa

Printed in Vistara Inflight Magazine as EXPERIENCE Ghalib’s Haveli – MAY 2018 https://www.airvistara.com/trip/inflight-magazine/monthly/now

 

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Mirza Ghalib, the legendary Urdu shayar, is one of the most discussed Urdu poets having been translated into many Indian and foreign languages. His poetic expressions have continued to rule hearts of poetry lovers for over 200 years. Here is a look at the life of the poet

Navina Jafa

In the winding labyrinth of Gali Qasim Jan in Ballimaran, which is in Old Delhi, stands a haveli that was once home to Mirza Ghalib. The poet, one of the most celebrated bards of his time, spent his last years in this home which has been converted into a memorial museum. The site intends to convey the life and time of the poet. Framed verses, photographs of the last Mughals, an effigy of the poet and household artifacts populate the space. The fad of Delhi Heritage Walks and the magnetic pull of Urdu poetry attract a number of visitors to this site, and occasionally there have been performances and cultural events centered on the life of the poet and poetry recitation by celebrities.

THE MUSEUM ENVIRONMENT

Neither the poet nor Ghalib ki Haveli existed or exist in isolation. They remain a part of a larger cultural geography marked by a heritage of the past and narratives of the near present reflecting socio-economic and cultural stirrings.

THE MUSEUM ENVIRONMENT Neither the poet nor Ghalib ki Haveli existed or exist in isolation. They remain a part of a larger cultural geography marked by a heritage of the past and narratives of the near present reflecting socio-economic and cultural stirrings.

“Gali Qasim Jan, where the haveli of Ghalib is located, was owned exclusively by Nawab Qasim Jan. The Gali had mansions of the elite, and its adjacent lane, Gali Gareeb, accommodated servants of these mansions. Later, plots were demarcated in the contiguous area, Sarhad Kale Sahab, and sold to elites like Nawab of Pataudi”, said Mirza Arif, poet and creative personality hailing from the family of the Mughals.

The Gali interconnects with the neighborhood of Ballimaran, where once one strolled and encountered a visual and aural interface with dozens of shops, such as the clinic of Buqaullah – popularly known as Bakka Hakim, a 19th century Yunani doctor, who, like many others, was associated with the palace, Red Fort. He was known to have great knowledge and cures related to eye ailments. Shopkeepers and their clients exchanged Urdu verses written by an assembly of noted poets who lived or were engaged in the area such as Mir, Hali, Daag, Zauqand even Hazrat Mohani whose ghazal (a lyrical poem set to music, usually on the theme of love) titled ‘Chupke Chupke’ attained great popularity when Pakistani émigré to India, singer Gulam Ali, sang this composition and made it immortal.

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Ghalib wasn’t merely an eminent man of letters but represented an entire cultural environment; one that was about lifestyles, historical events and cultural networks. Among several historical sketches that relate to Ghalib is his association with the prestigious family of Nawab Loharu whose sister, Umrao Begum, was Ghalib’s wife, and it was the Nawab who gave the house to the poet. The Loharu family, like the Mughals, came from Central Asia and besides Ghalib had an eclectic group of men of letters, Zauq and Dagh, as sons in-law.

One of the many aspects of Ghalib’s life is his well-known writings and observations of the revolt of 1857, which saw the dislocation of thousands of people in Delhi and displacement of the cultural system. However, a much less known fact remains that the State of Rampur in present Uttar Pradesh played an important role in Ghalib’s life and work. Following the horrors of the revolt of 1857 in Delhi, the Rohilla Nawabs of Rampur provided the poet laureate sanctuary and a small stipend. Ghalib served under two rulers and was the teacher of one of them. It was in Rampur where Ghalib assembled his famous ‘deewan’ or compilation of his poetry.

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The ‘deewan’ is embellished with artistic calligraphy and artwork in gold ink. Apart from this, Ghalib, through a large number of letters, expressed not only his art of poetry and language but also the comments on political and social circumstances. Despite the luxurious arrangements provided by the Nawabs, the temperamental poet chose to return to live in Delhi but maintained, even in his old and fragile age, constant connect through letters with the Rampur Nawabs wherein one he pined to attend the Benazir Ka Mela; a glamorous annual event organised by the Nawab, Kalbe Ali Khan, in honour of his favourite courtesan, for whom he had laid out a magnificent garden.

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THE THEATRE OF GHALIB

Ghalib combined a colorful, witty and mystical persona which is not only conveyed in his poems but through often-quoted anecdotes. One of them relates to his passion for mangoes.

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Ghalib’s student and biographer, Altaf Hussain Hali, describes in the biography titled Yaadgaar-eGhalib, that on one occasion, Ghalib was strolling with Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal Emperor in the lush orchards of Baagh-e-Hayaat Baksh, (the garden which bestows life) located in Delhi’s Red Fort. The fruiting trees were filled with ripe mangoes. Ghalib stopped, stared and told the Emperor that he had heard from elders that on each and every fruit one can see written a specific person’s name. That this was for that one, and that one for this one and so on, and that he could spot the name of his ancestors on these fruits. barsare har dana ba navishta avaan kaeen fulaan, ibne fulaan, ibne fulaan…..