A delectable feast

Our Forum on the first Saturday of every month is a smorgasbord of creative culture. The table attracts the best of the best and all of us who gather savor every bit, condition being that every invitee must present. Our curation has meandered into the happiest of paths and has yielded great benefits by a natural flow.

This February, we had photographer Ahmer Khan whose work has been featured in leading news agencies including AlJazeera, BBC, Getty Images, The Guardian to Anadolu Agency and Radio France International covering South Asia. His first hand experience as a documentary photographer in Kashmir brought us gripping heartrending images of Burhan Wani’s funeral, young victims of pellet guns and the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake. Ahmer is also engaged with LoudBettle, which he started to propel the youth of Kashmir ahead by organizing hubs, festivals, fundraising and events. Self-taught artist Shikhant Sablania’s iconography combines the animate with the inanimate to create surrealistic juxtapositions and humour laced with irony. Calling himself ‘the Choorma’, Shikant collaborates with illustrators and other comic-book artists at the Delhi Comics Kala Samagam to create alternative narratives. Radical thinker and artist Orijit Sen has inspired many with his knack for bringing a profound understanding through political satire. Never shying from controversy, Orijit’s cartoons and designs pierce at the heart of the matter. Orijit spoke about the power of Social Media, which he uses to showcase his revolutionary ideas. Through the presentations, a vein of alternative thinking resurged with fresh ways of expression on uncharted ground. Mixed media artist Alka Mathur who hails from Rajasthan collects hundreds of teabags, which she repurposes into her assemblages and artworks. Drawn to nuances of experience, a love for craft is evident in her oeuvre, which takes its roots in ancestral traits as well as Rajasthani culture. Another thread taking us back to the origins of craft and tradition tied into practical use is seen in sujani quilts, made by embroidery and quilting old saris. Swati Kalsi brings this back into our current milieu, also weaving in the ideas of fabric as tied into place, techniques as speaking of civilization and practice of craft directly relating to the identity of woman. Gaurav Shorey , architect at PSI, a New Delhi studio put forth a dynamic model for sustainability. Gaurav’s narrative form about his parallel program 5waraj and how becoming sensitive to localized needs, culture, materials and seasons were all part and parcel of the deeper sensitization to sustainable practice. Likewise, Ashish Gupta also questioned our attraction to the word organic as a term introduced to India, when our civilization over centuries was already steeped in organic ways of life. His solution, the Jaivik Haat, is a store that sells farmer surplus and has survived the test of time. Gupta has actively taken up the challenge to push the rationale to many levels by educating at schools and offering training programs.

The February Forum emerged as a generous force in the areas of sustainable practice and fearless engagement with the arts for keeping the dialogue going in many conflict zones.

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