Using art residency to revive Bhand Pather

Artist Khursheed Ahmad says his three-month residency stint will make him a better Bhand artiste 

Published: 13th June 2019 06:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th June 2019 09:46 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

Performance artiste Khursheed Ahmad is one of the four artists selected by the Serendipity Arts Foundation for the three-month-long artists’ residency programme, Dharti Arts Residency, in the Capital. This is an interdisciplinary, studio-based residency for emerging artists, which provides its residents’ space and resources to develop their art while working on new projects.

Born into a family of Bhand (folk theatre artistes) in Kashmir, Ahmad, after  completing his early education here, moved to Delhi to pursue a Masters in Visual Arts from Delhi’s Ambedkar University, 2016, and stayed put since.In a conversation, Ahmad bares his heart and soul.

Family background

So choosing a career in performance art was a natural corollary for Ahmad. Bhands, as we know, are involved in folk theatre of Kashmir – the plays, the characters, the costumes, the language they possess is called Pather in Kashmiri language. “That’s why whatever Bhands do is called Bhand Pather. But over a period of time this art form was tempered with by the politics of the state and the community was reduced to playing occupational characters,” rues Ahmad.

Education is a boon

Ahmad says the access to knowledge systems during the course of education widens one’s vision as a performing artiste. “It was at Ambedkar University that I got exposed to critical theory, cultural studies and explorations of concepts and media.”Believing that Delhi bodes well for emerging artistes, he adds, “This city helped me to get connected with the contemporary art circuit, which then helped me to participate in art events, not only here but also in different parts of the country.”

His specialisation

Visual arts. Since Ahmad inherited theatricality in genes, the appearance of Bhand Pather elements in his performances seem natural. He says,“I think through visuals. Some visuals remain with me, some flow out.”

Pursuing art full-time

The artist reflects how being solely dedicated to art helps him improve his craft, and says, “It is important to be honest and passionate about the work you do.” He remarks how the entire ecosystem has changed from what it was 20 years back. “I hope this keeps getting better with time and artistes find the stability and satisfaction in pursuing their art forms in a sustainable environment.”

Art residencies, a huge help

“This residency will help me excel as a Bhand artiste. Since I come from a family of Bhands (folk theatre artistes), I will utilise this three-month period to develop an artistic expression that is relevant to the contemporary art scenario,” says Ahmad.

About Bhand Pather

Bhand Pather are satirical plays that blend together mythological legends and contemporary issues to send across social messages. In its early days, these plays were performed at Sufi shrines in Kashmir, but now theatres have been established across the Valley.

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