Viewers at the Blanton Museum of Art can learn about South Asian culture through ancient Indian and Persian paintings and a classical dance performance by a UT graduate student.
Ethnomusicology graduate student Aruna Kharod performs the Bharatanatyam dance related to the paintings displayed in the “Epic Tales from Ancient India: Paintings from the San Diego Museum of Art” exhibition. Bharatanatyam is a genre of south Indian classical dance known for its usage of hand movements and facial expressions to narrate stories from different religious and literary texts.
Most of the dances Kharod performs are related to illustrations about Krishna, a revered Hindu god. Kharod said she focuses on bringing out the human emotions in the paintings in order to connect with the audience.
“Someone once told me, ‘Basically, your job as an artist is to take care of the audience,’” Kharod said. “I want people to say, ‘Yeah, Krishna is regarded as a god, but what’s really special about him is that he had this ability to make people see the joyful moments in their lives.’ I want them look at the characters out of the old setting they are in.”
History professor Indrani Chatterjee said she took her students to see the exhibition to show them South Asian culture has parallels with others cultures.
“I don’t want students to see South Asia as this foreign thing,” Chatterjee said. “I want them to understand that we should all take pride in the fact that there was a time that many cultures could coexist and did coexist.”
The exhibition also includes Indian classical music playing in the background, books about religious texts and a television playing an Indian soap opera, “Ramayan.” Kharod said this part of the exhibit makes it more interactive for people who may not immediately understand the art or the culture behind it.
“That’s kind of the aim of the multimedia aspect of the exhibit — trying to take really human emotions and dimensions of the art and saying, ‘Oh, this is not as foreign as it seems,’” Kharod said.
Government junior Devaki Radkar, who is in Chatterjee’s class, said learning about South Asian art history will help students connect to present issues.
“Dr. Chatterjee always talks about how history is alive because it is so relevant to our society today,” Radkar said. “I hope that students could learn something through the art that inspires them, but also something that they could use to connect to the present.”