Indian Culture Takes Space at Alpharetta Arts Center | Culture & Leisure


ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Since the early ’90s, artist Malika Garrett has wanted something like “Colors of India” for herself and her co-workers.

She wanted a space where artists of Indian descent could come together to showcase their work, express Indian culture, tradition and history, and to do so help break down some of the rigid stereotypes in which Indians are often confined.

“There’s a lot more to India than IT,” Garrett said.

Born in Kolkata, India, Garrett moved to the United States in 1985 to attend Wesleyan College, Macon, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts. She uses oil to paint ordinary people with the bright and bold colors that speak of Indian fashion and atmosphere.

“I’ve dedicated a lot of my work to women,” Garrett said. “Most of my work is about women. Indian women are extremely strong. They run the show – and surprise, surprise, but most women do.

The India American Cultural Association (IACA), which is celebrating its 51st year of community service, and Alpharetta Arts Center have partnered to organize the “Colors of India” exhibition. Those interested can visit and see his works of art at the center until September 23.

More than 250 people gathered for the gallery’s reception for the “Colors of India” exhibition at the Alpharetta Arts Center on August 6. The hosts provided traditional Indian food for visitors while admiring the art.

Garrett, who played a key role in organizing, called the exhibit the first of its kind. While the IACA has hosted other showcases in the past, “Colors of India” is the first external exhibition, said IACA President Chand Akkineni.

The gallery’s 15 artists, all female IACA members, presented and discussed their work at a reception on August 6. The reception was buzzing with conversations between its 260 attendees, artists and center staff. Many contained plates filled with a variety of Indian dishes, such as chicken and aloo Kati rolls from Cal Kati’s and idli, samosas and chicken tikka from Nalan.

In the second half of the evening, Atlanta-based singer/songwriter/pianist Anita Aysola performed. Aysola, who has toured nationally and performed for former President Barack Obama, brings jazz, blues and Indian classical influences to her original songs.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, about 50,000 Indians have migrated to Alpharetta and nearby Cumming and John’s Creek, Akkineni said.

“I really thought it was time for us to get to know each other,” Garrett said.

Garrett’s daughter, Aalia, also exhibited her artwork at the show. Artists have their own section, which includes their biography and detailed explanations of each artwork.

Aalia’s biography reads: “Growing up in a multi-ethnic household, she developed a kind of hybrid identity, once made up of two very different cultures. She wanted to portray both the ups and downs of each and the subsequent complications that arise from conflicting perspectives.

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The artist Aditi Chakrabarty presents two of her pieces in the “Colors of India” exhibition. On the left is his oil painting “Soul Mate”, which depicts the love story of Lord Krishna and soul mate Radha. On the right is “Nobel Poet”, a portrait of Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore hails from West Bengal, India, like Chakrabarty, and is the only Indian winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Like Garrett, part of artist Aditi Chakrabarty’s inspiration comes from wanting to pass on Indian culture to her daughter. One of his works is an oil portrait of Rabindranath Tagore, India’s only winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Chakrabarty came to the United States in 2011 from West Bengal, India. Tagore is also from West Bengal.

“My idea was to just have a painting in front of it to show that it’s sitting in front of you, and you can just go on with your flow,” Chakrabarty said.

Each “Colors of India” artist has their own journey and their own message to convey, which adds to the larger idea behind the exhibition – India and Native Americans are not a monolith. The ways of being are diverse.

Artist Neha Patel chose to explore how Indian culture is constantly changing and does so through a modern lens. Patel takes age-old iconography, like Om for example, and creates simple, emoji-like designs with the current tech-savvy generation in mind.

“When everyone thinks of India, they think of a bit old-fashioned,” Patel said. “My job as a creative is to improve our work.”

The IACA will also host its flagship event, Festival of India, at Gas South in Duluth on August 13. The one-day event, now in its 26th year, was designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of India’s independence. There will be a flag march, culturally rich performances, art exhibits and seminars ranging from yoga topics to immigrant political beliefs.


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