Mother India brings what curator Prabir Mehta calls “a vast but representative picture of what India offers” to Gallery 5 tonight.
“Get out of my way, you don’t belong here!” Those were the words Prabir Mehta heard while walking through the aisles of the Kroger on Lombardy St, after being rammed with a grocery cart. Mehta, born and raised in India, first came to the United States with his family in 1988 and has been a Richmond local ever since. But unfortunately, incidents like these have been a constant in Mehta’s life since he arrived in the River City.
In an effort to combat these social injustices and emphasize the importance of cultural diversity, Mehta has organized and curated the first all-Indian group art show Richmond has seen. Entitled Mother India, it opens this Friday at Gallery 5, and will feature several Indian artists and performers showcasing photography, art, and contemporary and classical dance/music.
Mehta, who co-founded Gallery 5 back in 2005, has been curating and planning this event for the better part of a year now. “I’ve had my feelers out for about a year to curate a very vast but representative picture of what I think India offers that world,” he said.
Opening night will kick off at 7 PM and feature several performers over the course of the evening. Kicking off the party are two classical Indian musicians, carantic vocalist Sri Parupalli Satyanarayana, and Mridangam drum player Sri Parupalli Balasubramaniam. Mehta said that booking the well-known Indian duo was a stroke of luck since they just happened to be on tour in the states for the past few weeks.
Others performers over the course of the evening will include classical dancer Rujuta Pandya, contemporary musicians Nitin Joshi group, and even Mehta himself, leading his Indian-inspired rock group, Prabir Trio. The night ends with an explosion of Indian beats by DJ Carlito, who will be hosting a Bollywood dance party.
Throughout the night, a wide array of art pieces will be showcased, either created by Indian artists or inspired by India itself. The gallery room will include everything from traditional illustrations of Hindu deities to contemporary pop art, as well as astrophotography and photos of the bustling street life in India. Artists with work in the show include Madhup Rathi, Dhruti Rathi, David Kenedy, and Ruchi Gupta.
Mehta said that the Indian community and Indian businesses of Richmond that really made this event possible. Local Indian businesses like Nama, Veracity Consulting, and the Great Big Everything are some of the many sponsors who funded and supported Mother India. Mehta also said that the Indian community played a vital role in booking artists and performers, since most of them were found through word of mouth and local connections.
While Mehta had expected to have trouble getting the community to contribute, he found it a much easier task than he’d planned for. “I was very humbled by how everyone was so willing to participate in this, because they felt it was something worth doing,” he said. Mehta hopes that this event will show everyone how the life of most Indians is based around community and family.
While Mehta has always tried to include elements of Indian culture in the work he’s done for Gallery 5 over the years, it wasn’t until his recent experience in Kroger that he felt the need to organize an all-Indian show. He said that, in the current political climate, there’s no better time than right now to put on a show like this.
“I think it’s because I got pushed enough,” Mehta said. “I’ve seen people getting harassed; I’ve felt it myself. And I think right now the general concern that I have is that we are not looking to one another as creators, makers, [and] thinkers. And unfortunately, a lot of people are using physical appearance as a deterring factor to any decision-making about that person.”
Mehta hopes that Mother India will both expose people to classical and contemporary Indian art and music, and give them the chance to approach and interact with these artists. Mehta believes that by doing so, individuals can engage with other communities through art — which is the mission of Gallery 5.
“Art transcends cultural biases, if you let it,” Mehta said. “It can become a unifier, and that’s why I want to do this.”
And if nothing else, Mehta hopes that the Richmond community will come with an open mind, ready to have fun.
“I hope people will come and have a great time,” he said. “And be blown away by the sights and sounds of all things India.”
Top Photo by David Kenedy/via Facebook