About Me

Image courtesy Tashi Rastogi, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA.

I grew up in Bombay, India, and I saw how the city treated its cultural heritage at large–it was more interested in making money and appropriating our beautiful art for its own uses. Having grown up exposed a fair bit to the arts, I’ve been very interested in the arts for a long time. It was such a normal part of life that I didn’t even know it was ‘art’ until I learned so.

In the summer of 2015, I worked with a former Indian royal who had an extensive family heirloom. In 2016, he reached out to me to see if I would be interested in helping him break up and auction off the entire collection. My time with the collection led me to believe that it held greater value as a whole, open to the public to view. I realised that the need of the hour was preservation and appreciation of what we already had- and that led me to start The Mumbai Art Collective.

Now, I am the publisher at Bombaykala Books, where my aim is to change the way stories are told.

 

Bombaykala Books

Bombaykala Books is a Mumbai-based book publishing house for the global reader. It publishes poetry, fiction, translations, non-fiction and academic works with a worldwide distribution for print and digital books.

BK Books is an initiative to create a literature around Bombay. While efforts to immortalise the city have been in progress down the ages, its several voices and worldviews — all its mini-cities — need a more focused delivery system. However, BK Books isn’t limited to publishing Mumbai-specific books and wishes to look at the global through the local.

There are more forms of capital than just financial capital for a publisher — human, social, symbolic, and intellectual — as outlined in Merchants of Culture by John B. Thompson. Therefore, Bombaykala Books was created with the spirit of a bibliophile wanting to read books that are not dictated by the commercial pressures of the current publishing landscape. In essence, Bombaykala Books is looking for stories that are authentic, and get at the epistemological roots of who we are.

Bombaykala Books has featured in Mid-Day, India Today, LBB Mumbai, and Radio Ishq 104.8FM. It featured prominently along with me on my citation for India Today‘s 42nd Anniversary Issue list of 42 post-liberalisation entrepreneurs, “The DIY Generation,” and in Harper’s Bazaar‘s May 2018 issue.

Some of the books that Bombaykala Books has published are:

  • A Bombay In My Beat, by Mrinalini Harchandrai: A book of jazz poetry that captures the soundtrack of the city.
  • Saving Maya, by Kiran Manral: Wry and endearingly earnest, Saving Maya is a heartwarming novel about the beauty of second chances.
  • Tomorrow It Will All Run Backwards, by Michael Brett: Modern war poetry that lays bare the horrors of war.
  • A City of Sungazers, by Queenie Sukhadia: The winner of Sidney Cox Memorial Prize at Dartmouth College, this novel explores Bombay through the eyes of two families, the Parekhs and the Patels.
  • When Home Is An Idea, by Rochelle D’Silva: This collection of poems talks about poet Rochelle D’Silva’s struggles with identity and belonging.
  • Ek Chotisi Dibiya, by Vishakha Sharma: This book of Hindi poetry draws the reader into a utopian yet real world of love, desire, loss and hope.

The Mumbai Art Collective

 

 

I grew up in Mumbai, India, and I saw how the city treated its cultural heritage at large- it was more interested in making money and appropriating our beautiful art for its own uses. Having grown up exposed a fair bit to the arts, I’ve been very interested in the arts for a long time. I am also a photographer and recipient of the Thomas W. Gerber’43 Award for Excellence in Photojournalism at The Dartmouth, where I was a Staff Photographer.

In the summer of 2015, I worked with a former Indian royal who had an extensive family heirloom. In 2016, he reached out to me to see if I would be interested in helping him break up and auction off the entire collection. My time with the collection led me to believe that it held greater value as a whole, open to the public to view. I realised that the need of the hour was preservation and appreciation of what we already had- and that led me to start The Mumbai Art Collective.


PAST MAGAZINE ISSUES: The Arts of War (Spring 2017)

Read Articles Online

  1. Editorial Note: The Arts of War (Ishaan Jajodia)
  2. Conflict in the Vālmīki Rāmāyana: A South Asian Perspective on Just War Theory (Gauri Saxena)
  3. The Ruins of War and Colonialism in Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Castle (Rashika Desai)
  4. Balwan, Kausik. (Ishaan Jajodia)
  5. “I write on war because I don’t get sleep at night”: Daaniyal Sayed (Ishaan Jajodia)
  6. The Bard from the Valley (Rutika Yeolekar)
  7. Burnt Musings: War (Tamarind Fall)
View Via Google Drive

 

The Make Art, Not War Exhibit

The Make Art, Not War exhibit was a project I did with a fellow member of Dartmouth’s Class of 2020, Makisa Bronson, and McKenna Conlin. 

My note on the exhibit, originally published on Medium:

Photograph by Melissa Cain/ The Make Art, Not War Exhibit & The Mumbai Art Collective

In light of recent developments in India, especially Delhi, it is important to recognise the healing power of art, and its ability to build bridges that have been burnt in the most horrific ways, by forces outside the control of the artist. I hope that by viewing The Make Art, Not War exhibit, you, the viewer, will be able to gain some critical distance from the events currently unravelling in India’s capital, and across the social media sphere, and ask fundamental questions about the true nature of war, as GurMehar Kaur aimed to do in her video.

The Mumbai Art Collective hosted this cross-border exhibition, starting June 2017, which is archived here. This exhibition was brought together through the work of McKenna Conlin and Makisa Bronson, the manifestation of a month-long exchange programme where Iraqi and American students visited three cities in the USA.

People your age, and mine, are the focal points of this project They are no Michelangelos and Warhols, but they are their own artists, each bringing unique experiences to the canvas. They bring together centuries of collective experience, largely first-hand, with the horrors of war, from the perspective of the occupied and the occupier. There is an aestheticization of war, but the pain, dismay, and suffering is evident on the surface of the artworks.

The quotes that accompany the artworks and photographs, too, are unique insights into the true nature of war. Most of the people who are quoted are in their late teens, and are people like you and me, who unfortunately grew up in the shadow of war, and in the twilight of the Saddam Hussein regime. There’s a nostalgia for the old, and a vibrant hope for the future. There’s an expression of bravado, however, that is striking: to be able to live life normally.


 

ABOUT THE EXHIBIT

Dear Viewer,

In the summer of 2015, we were two of 10 American students selected to participate in the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP), a month-long cultural exchange with 30 Iraqi high school students where we learned about foreign affairs, diplomacy, and life in the Middle East. As a follow-on to the program, each participant completed an action project relevant to what they learned on the program.

With those lessons in mind, the two of us have decided to create Make Art, Not War, the art exhibit you are currently viewing, wherein we recruited American youth artists to create art that depicts aspects of Iraqi culture not often discussed in Western culture and media. We hoped to inspire these artists with Iraqi students’ responses to the following questions:

● What is the biggest problem in Iraq that you believe most Americans aren’t aware of?
● What part of your culture (as an Iraqi) are you most proud of and would like to tell people about?

As you will see, each piece has been displayed along with the quote that inspired it. As a complement to the artwork, we have also included a selected 16 photos shot by our friend and mentor Mellisa Cain on her trip to Iraqi Kurdistan in 2016. We hope to educate the international community about the liveliness that exists in Iraqi culture and the unique struggles that Iraqis face on a daily basis–we want people to look past their stereotypes of Iraq as being an unstable, terrorist-ridden, and war-torn nation, and to truly learn about the lives of the people who live there every day.

Thank you so much for viewing our digital collection, and for being willing to keep an open mind about those different from you.
Sincerely,

Makisa Bronson and McKenna Conlin.


ARTWORKS
SUPPLEMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHS

Hosted by The Mumbai Art Collective. The copyright for all images and artworks rests with the respective artists and have been used with their express written permission. For more information, please write to me.