PFA: My GJ1 Weekender In Ahmedabad

PFA: My GJ1 Weekender In Ahmedabad

PFA: My GJ1 Weekender In Ahmedabad has been edited by Nidhi Shah.

Recently while my peers were off to Pune for a music festival, I took this opportunity to indulge in the boom of cultural events in Ahmedabad. I like to refer to it as the GJ1 Weekender. Ahmedabad being the only city except Mumbai and Delhi to host Mughal-e-Azam goes on to show the Amdavadi appetite for art and culture. With the barrage of events these days, it isn’t even possible to attend half of them. Not that this does wonders for my FOMO. I’m constantly pining for events that I missed: Kadak Badshahi, Dastangoi, Within a Zenana, and a Sufi music night amongst others.

On a glass-very-much-full note, I actually did make it to plenty of other places. The city abounds with photography exhibitions such as Mitul Kajaria’s wonderful exhibit at Satya Art Gallery juxtaposing images of Ahmedabad’s landmarks from 1866 with present-day photographs. Likewise, there are poetry and stand-up open mics to go to every week. Most of them being by our very own Lutalica.

‘Ahmedabad: The capital of Goozerat’ to Ahmedabad: India’s First World Heritage City by Mitul Kajaria

It helps that the city has a steady supply of institutions which form the mainstay for such events. One such institution is Avni Sethi’s Conflictorium – a museum of conflict. Housed in the Gool Lodge, it is an archive of all the clashes that have occurred in Gujarat. The house has a beautiful legacy of being passed down from a woman to another. Bachuben Nagarwala – the first beautician and hairstylist of Ahmedabad – had willed the building to be ‘used for something good’. The Centre for Social Justice later gave it to Sethi to house Conflictorium.

Here I had the pleasure of attending the exhibit Microsubversions Playbook which featured over 10 artists. It explored the small ways in which we resist institutional authority every day. The diversity of representation at the exhibit was a welcome departure from the heterogeneous worldview of the West.

For instance, according to a 2015 Mellon Foundation study, non-Hispanic white people hold 84% curatorial roles in museums. (Where American museums formed 90% of the respondents). People who decide what artworks are ‘seminal’ or ‘groundbreaking’ inevitably represent people of a single demographic. Thus it was no shocker that when I used Google’s new application that allows you to take a selfie and see artworks that resemble you, I found that the app thought I looked like an old white man.

Two selfies later, I matched with a beautiful Amrita Sher-Gil painting. However, even this relief was fraudulent as I didn’t look like that girl at all. The unfortunate reality is that we don’t have enough representation of POC either in artworks or in artists. Amrita Sher-Gil is a standalone example of a woman of colour who achieved the kind of fame she has received. That too because she was a product of a European mother and an Indian father hailing from royalty.

Given this, needless to say, I was excited to see an exhibition of her drawings at Kasturbhai Lalbhai museum. A family home restored by architect and conservationist Rahul Mehrotra, the museum is elegantly self-assured in its simplicity. The museum displayed her early charcoal, pencil, and graphite stick works on paper. These portraits were from her time under tutors in Simla and Paris, and her time at Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In her drawings, she experimented with both European and Indian figures.

Despite my admiration for her, I could see in her early Indian figures that she had an orientalist perspective. Her drawings displayed the fetishisation of the colonial eye and not the familiarity of a daughter of the soil. While she did grow up in India, her financial status and foreign education hindered her from developing a homegrown aesthetic.

Beyond this exhibit, the museum was showing an exquisite collection of Balucharan saris. The museum also hosts a permanent collection of works from various genres and eras. These artworks range from 16th century Mughal paintings to 20th century works from the Bengal School of Art. Further, they have a dedicated section for Indian contemporary art. It is displayed in a section designed by renowned English architect Claude Batley in the 1930s. It houses exemplars of the Indian art scene in the past century such as MF Hussain and SH Raza.

A Balucharan Sari showing a lady smoking hookah

Beyond our numerous museums, the city now also offers plenty of annual fests celebrating all art forms. My full belly and phone camera roll are a testimony to this. We’ve had Abhivyakti – a city arts and culture project which exhibited 30 artists for 30 days. Or for millennials, we had The Big Squat which brought to Ahmedabad the best of the indie scene in comedy, music, and films.

Be it food, poetry, installations, music, theatre, or dance, Ahmedabad has got it all.




In other news, I’m already eating my heart out because I’ll be missing the 8th Theatre Olympics. But on the brighter side, I’m looking forward to watching the ballet recital of Swan Lake, and the screening of Pyaasa. Also, visiting the newly built Jai Jagat theatre at Sabarmati Ashram, and the unveiling of a new exhibition space – 079 stories is at the top of my list. What to do, gotta catch ’em all!

To read more by the author of PFA: My GJ1 Weekender In Ahmedabad click here.

PFA: My GJ1 Weekender In Ahmedabad has been edited by Nidhi Shah.

Dishani Vora

Potential writer for “How to make enemies and alienate people”. Small but will fight you. Recommended by 2 out of 2 friends. Will roast at a moment’s notice. Follow me @forceduniqueness on Instagram for pretty pictures and self deprecatory captions.