Nuzhat Kazmi, the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Jamia Millia Islamia in conversation with Anish Vasudevan (Research Scholar, CCMG, JMI) on the emerging Creative Industry and Economy in India.
Q: What role do you see of artists and art historians in the development of policy concerning the creative industries?
A: In policy making, I think it has to involve all sections of society, the entire intelligentsia because each one has a perspective and a contribution to make and to have valid concepts and ideas so that we can open up the field of art education in our country. So it’s not just about artists and art historians, it has to involve all sections of society which means even the social workers have to be involved.
Q: India’s greatest asset has been its huge untapped repositories of traditional arts and crafts, some of which are on the verge of dying out.
A: You see everything in India has to be very extensive and huge, everything. From healthcare to communication, everything has to be huge and this emphasis on untapped talents and riches, this should not inhibit us from being natural with our resources that we have. What I think as an art historian, art educator and an artist too, of some calibre is that we have to just enjoy in creating an environment in our country which is productive of intelligent creativity, which enhances the quality of life, the aesthetics of life, which enhances – you know – good design, good experience, visual experience. I think that is art is all about. I would love to share with you that there is a debate within the art world as to whether art is what happens in – you know- or is showcased only in galleries or in museums. Art is for a long time now has been a concept which can be applied to a found object and it becomes an entirely different experience, opens up an entire new understanding and so it enlarges your life, it enlarges your vision, it enlarges your mobility and your delight in those very experiences. It is good that art is taken a little seriously so it doesn’t become mundane like eating bread and butter in the morning, so it’s good to keep art and its value as something special but that doesn’t mean that it has to be elevated to a platform so high.
Q: So how do you think we can inculcate and revive these traditional arts and crafts to create an avenue for their participation in the cultural economy in India?
A: Well, that is what good governance is about, that is what good statecraft is about. That is what our votes are all about. Choose good people who have vision, who have imagination, who have honesty to bring good life to the people. We are living in a world where art is accessible now nearly to everybody, in the age of the internet, digitisation of images and knowledge. It’s not a very difficult thing to do, it only needs a huge clarity about what is good life, what is socialism, what is democracy, what our constitution is all about. We can revisit all these avenues which make up our life as Indians and stand by those values. I don’t think we are still too late in giving ourselves a well designed, quality life with good aesthetics and arts.
Q: In what way do you think that the coming of ‘the digital’ has changed the way in which we think about art and the economy surrounding it?
A: Digital art is accessible, it can be transformed and it transforms. It has made things easy also for people with resources, to monopolise its application, its concretisation into viable economies, into industrial product, for mass production, so art of course has a special place in this, it has a very unique role to play in this. It is one tool to retain the quality and the pleasure of life.
Q: What do you think is the greatest barrier in the formulation of a comprehensive policy concerning the creative industry in India and how do you think we will be able to move past it?
A: We don’t have the knack of choosing the right people for the right jobs, I think. Where we do that we excel. You see, the NID was such a big enterprise, IITs were such great institutions, our universities were such great spaces for interdisciplinary studies and exchange of ideas and our art colleges are not – you know- bad, but sometimes for the lack of trained academics and teachers and art teachers in schools, we run into problems. And policy comes as a base, it also has a grassroots functionality. So we really need to look at it carefully.
Q: So can we say that it is due to a lack of interest?
A: No, we can’t generalise this you know. I don’t think it is lack of interest, it’s just that we are still a nation which cannot be categorised as developed and rich, though we are the fastest growing economy. So which class it is enriching and enhancing -we know- and which class it is not enhancing- we know that too. So this dichotomy, this disconnect, this inequity which we see, is where we have to work as a nation, as a governing state. I really put the responsibility of this on the state, state can’t abdicate these responsibilities. We vote for them, it is like diluting the power of your own vote if you allow your own government to shrug these responsibilities and this is a serious matter because everything they do now is going to at least affect the next 50 years. Like the initial policies that were made soon after our independence, have affected us, have carried us, it is still keeping us together. But if we start diluting our own strength then we are in serious trouble.
Q: There is a perception that the creative industries are geared towards the elite and therefore there is a hesitation in participation from the common man. Do you think that perception is true? If not, then how do we bridge this gap between the arts and the common man?
A: I really believe that whatever art, whatever traditions, whatever crafts that we have is immense, I don’t think we need to work on that. What we do really need to work on is equality in terms of economic standards of people. There should not be disparity in terms of economics between people. There should be at least some basic standards of dignified life and access to resources, to some decent lifestyle, to some education, to health. I think if we can achieve that art will itself fill up the spaces. Art will follow. But if we neglect these areas and not laying out the basic structure, we can’t keep wanting for art to be everywhere. If we have not made the space open up equally for everybody, then art will remain in elite spaces. We will rather think that it is elite, even though it may be present around us, because we have not educated the people to see art all around, it is a visual experience which they can see everywhere. We have to educate the common man, we have to sensitise them to see good design, good art, and good aesthetics. Appreciate it, keep it, sustain it, enhance it, grow it and encourage it.