One aspect of decolonizing is the restoration of culture and tradition, but the paradox is that ironically, this comes out of the colonization process, said Kazi Khaleed Ashraf, director general of the Bengal Institute of Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements, during a session on the opening day of the Dhaka Art Summit at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy yesterday.
He also highlighted the fact that art became a very important discourse of nationalism in Bengal during the early 1900s. Declaring Muzharul Islam as the initiator of the process of decolonizing art in Bangladesh, he discussed how the father of Bangali modernism found both colonial and traditional art to be repressive, hence opting for modernity.
Diana Campbell Betancourt, moderator for the session, artistic director of Samdani Art Foundation, and chief curator of the Dhaka Art Summit, said the main focus for the panel at the session entitled “Decolonizing and Building Art Institutions in the Global South,” was to figure out how to define an independent artistic direction and build our own institutions in the post colonial context, without relying on existing colonial structures.
Speakers at the session discussed diverse forms of institution building that have come about as a response to local needs, and how these institutions contribute to the building of local expertise to protect and drive forward artistic historical discourse.
Koyo Kouoh, founding director of RAW Material Company in Dakar, drew attention to China's neocolonialist ambitions in Africa, portraying how colonialism is still present in the continent.
She also explained that an important aspect of building art institutions is to go beyond just an individual's ideas, as the aim of such institutions is to create a space with the ideals of freedom and enquiry as focal points.
Zoe Butt, artistic Director of The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, said that the most important thing she had learned in her approach to decolonizing art was the significance of language, attitude, and the creation of friendships within the artistic community.
Jeannette Plaut, founder of Chile-based cultural organization Constructo, and Cosmin Costinas, executive director of Para Site contemporary arts centre in Hong Kong, also spoke at the session.