(Originally published in Greater Kashmir, 1st January 2015 – http://bit.ly/1x91ZDT)
“I hope we achieve a sense of ownership towards our future, a sense of ownership towards Kashmir. I hope we begin to see what we have lost because of our mistakes in the past, and therefore work together to make advances towards a progressive future. To construct a Kashmir with arms open to the world, we must begin to think of ourselves as the guardians of this incredibly beautiful land; of awe-inspiring culture; of our past and future.
The creative and cultural infrastructure in Kashmir has been seriously lacking. There have been no avenues for the artists to showcase their work. There is no exchange of creative dialogue with the international world. Art education is seriously lacking. The lone institute of fine arts at Rajbagh is in shambles. It is probably the most gravely ignored institution by the University over the years and especially after the floods. It still awaits rehabilitation. Hardly any research takes place in the field of visual arts in Kashmir. What we learn from history and through evidence is that the state of arts in a society strongly influences its social, cultural and intellectual evolution. But unfortunately our creative sector is in a pathetic shape.
To address the issues in this sector I started Kashmir Art Quest in 2009 which has been working towards the advancements of arts, artists and art education in Kashmir. The platforms and opportunities for creative expression had become non-existent here due to decades of turmoil and conflict, curbs on freedom of expression, ignorance by successive governments and absence of any organisations working in the field of arts. It is one of our foremost goals to create a situation in Kashmir where an international art-scene might exist – therefore channelize creative energy towards Kashmir. We celebrate a culture of innovation and creativity, and strive to foster creative and cultural entrepreneurship in the region.
Unfortunately we are still the only independent contemporary arts organisation working actively in Kashmir. However we are all-set to launch the first ever centre for contemporary arts and research in J&K – a historical landmark, and a much needed space especially in a place like Kashmir. Gallerie One will initiate the long overdue exploration of the creative economy, and promote Brand Kashmir globally. This will create value propositions worth crores of Rupees for our society, our traders, hoteliers, businesses, real-estate developers, and even the tourists visiting Kashmir. This has finally become possible after years of hard work and now by the support from J&K Department of Tourism. I hope the local businesses, corporate, future administration and governments continue to support such initiatives, and prioritize the revival and promotion of a new, distinct creative economy.”
Syed Mujtaba Rizvi
Founder, Chief Executive Officer, Gallerie One.
Founder, Managing Director, Kashmir Art Quest.