The Art Connect

How travel and global connections help local artists broaden their horizon
Art connects us across geographic borders, cultures, and nationalities. Credit Shutterstock
Art connects us across geographic borders, cultures, and nationalities. Credit Shutterstock

The arts connect us across geographic borders, cultures, and nationalities. Whatever our background, we all have the human right to access the arts at school, home, at literature festivals, museums, concerts, and gigs. Artists are the storytellers of our times they help us understand a complicated world and build empathy in the audience. Throughout history, artists have used their creativity to make giant leaps of imagination, pioneering new ideas to connect the world. Artists' creativity in their pens, paintbrushes, and on the stage are their tools to share honest and imagined new senses of the world.

Today's world demands more connectedness and the development of closer bonds between people across continents, and artists are often the pioneers. In the past, it wasn't easy to grow and communicate beyond local boundaries. Along with the large audiences at the Jaipur Literature Festival, I was moved hugely recently by the bravery, substance, and compassion of young LGBTQI poets and podcasters, as well as writers and translators from Assam, Kerala, Bangalore, and Mumbai. The young, talented artists from across India have been working with their UK counterparts to create stunning writing that pays homage to the writer's identity.

It didn't happen by chance. Nor did it happen overnight. This collaboration between the Queer Muslim Project in India, Verve Poetry Festival in Birmingham and BBC Contains Strong Language spanned several months of online meetings and workshops between artists across India and the UK. This new kind of digital research and development enabled both sets of writers to grow creatively and deepen their cultural understanding. The collaboration was a part of the India/UK Together Season of Culture &ndash a landmark programme of arts and culture dedicated to the cause of creating stronger ties between emerging artists in India and the UK on the occasion of India's 75th anniversary.  

Artists are shining the light on modern-day India while making connections with global artists and performing to online audiences worldwide through digital streaming on platforms such as the Festivals from India site. The need for artists to connect their stories with audiences is fundamental to our wellbeing. India's National Education Policy affirms that all children and families should have access to arts and culture at school or university. Research has shown that if children have access to books, films, live music, and the performing arts while they're young, they'll have a richer and deeper comprehension of the world for the rest of their lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic, when we all had to live, work, and play at home through multiple lockdowns, showed the importance of arts and culture to connect us at the hardest of times. The global pandemic led many people to turn to OTT platforms, which grew in popularity as more people wanted to watch films and live performances, from Digital Theatre in schools to BFI streaming and National Theatre Live and the Royal Shakespeare Company in the United Kingdom, finding new global audiences with digital platforms.

Like art, its audience has evolved and is too hungry for new creative experiences and destinations. The British Council's new partnership with India's largest airline, IndiGo, will expand domestic and international audiences for the arts festivals market showcasing on the IndiGo website, inflight magazine, and Festivals from India. The world has changed, and arts and culture are more easily accessed through travel once again for culture seekers keen to explore India and the UK. Like the Belfast International Festival in Northern Ireland, the Edinburgh Festivals in Scotland, the London International Mime Festival in the UK, the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa, the Ziro Festival in Arunachal Pradesh, and the current Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Kerala are magnets for artists and adventure seekers for culture, driving the creative economy and its contribution to India's GDP. 

Some of the unique collaborations in the current India/UK Together season of culture are building imaginative bridges between artists, communities, and audiences in India and the UK. The Govandi Arts Festival in Mumbai, with the Community Design Agency linked to Lamplighter Arts in Bristol, is building the creative skills of young people and the pride of marginalised communities to imagine a more inclusive and equal world. At the cutting edge of gaming, AI, VR and NFTs, the Future Everything festival, led by two wonderful women role models in Bengaluru and Manchester, is addressing the most urgent global challenge of our times &ndash climate change &ndash through digital innovation and the performing arts.

Many great artists throughout history were, in a way, cultural tourists who saw internationalism as an essential part of their artistic practice and growth. These artists believed it important to keep learning through exposure to different cultures. During the Renaissance period, Leonardo da Vinci travelled throughout Italy and France. More recently, Rabindranath Tagore from Kolkata reached across borders, especially in the UK, where a statue in tribute to him and his work still exists stands in Gordon Square in central London today.

Artists, like scientists, technologists, medics, and engineers, are the inventors and pioneers of our times. From ancient cave drawings to cutting-edge NFT visual arts, the arts play an essential role in our lives. In our interconnected world, we need artists from all cultures to help rebuild, reinvent, and reimagine more than ever for trade, the creative economy, employment, and the wellbeing of all our lives, as art and artists help us make sense of this brave new world.

Jonathan Kennedy is the Director of Arts for the British Council in India. One of his key work areas is conceptualising programmes to promote and strengthen India-UK cultural relations through collaboration, connections and creative partnerships.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller