History of Raza Foundation
Even when he was being widely acknowledged as a prominent figure of modern Indian art, Syed Haider Raza, who had been living and working in France for 60 years, always felt deeply concerned about the struggles and inadequate opportunities for the younger generations of artists in his native country. On almost all his annual sojourns to India, Raza would find time and energy to meet young artists, see and discuss their works and would invariably acquire the ones he felt had some substance of either idiom or vision. His mansion in Paris had a large growing collection of such works. He never failed to recall the hard times he and his other artist comrades, the likes of M. F. Hussain, F. N. Souza, H. A. Gade, S. K. Bakre and Krishnaji Ara, had to face when they were young and putting together the path-breaking Progressive Artists Group, in what was then Bombay.
Ever since he started earning sufficient income from his art, Raza had deeply desired of having at least a part of the income go towards the promotion and support of younger artists in India. Young Indian artists who visited him in Paris never tire of their tales of his infallible generosity, which eventually took the shape of Raza Foundation, a private non-profit trust. Initially, the Raza Foundation was set up with only its 3 founding trustees - Raza himself, Arun Vadehra (who established Vadehra Art Gallery) and Ashok Vajpeyi (a Hindi poet-critic and culture activist). Later, more people who shared the vision behind the Foundation, namely painters Akhilesh and Manish Pushkale, Kathak dancer Prerana Shrimali and poet, art critic and curator Ranjit Hoskote, were brought in the organisation.
Activities and Events conducted by Raza Foundation
S. H. Raza had been deeply interested in poetry and notebooks. He compiled ‘Dhai Aakhar’ (Two and a Half Words), which contain many verses culled from Hindi, French, Sanskrit, Urdu literatures etc. The eminent artist had also been vulnerable to Indian classical music and dance. There have been many informal music concerts in his studio in Paris, and he had participated in a project for the Festival D’ Avignon in which painting, poetry, Kathak dance and music featured. Keeping this wide range in mind, the Raza Foundation has been supporting a lot of activities, projects and publications, relating not only to only visual arts and paintings, but also to poetry, music and dance.
The celebrations of birth centenaries of two renowned Hindi poets, Agyeya and Shamsher Bahadur Singh, were conducted by the Raza Foundation. The organisation has been involved with BAR 1 Bangalore for workshop in new media, with the Kritya International Poetry Festival, Thiruvananthapuram and other such events. Since 2009, the Foundation has been organizing a week-long interactive camp at Anandgram, New Delhi, featuring around 15 of the Raza Foundation awardees. The annual event allows a forum for practitioners of visual arts, music, dance and poetry, to share ideas, visions, anxieties etc., and to develop a deeper understanding into the arts other than one’s own.
A series of panel discussions, titled ‘Art Matters’, was held in Delhi, addressing many urgent issues pertaining to arts, such as Democracy and Culture, Arts and Public Institutions, the Disappearing Criticism etc. Seven memorial lectures named after some of the great masters such as V. S. Gaitonde (visual arts), Agyeya (poetry), Habib Tanvir (theatre), Kelucharan Mohapatra (dance), Kumar Gandharva (music), Mani Kaul (cinema), and Daya Krishna (philosophy), in the year 2012-13. The Foundation also supported an international seminar on "Art and the Promise of Beauty" in February 2012.
When Syed Haider Raza turned 90 on February 22, 2012, the Foundation in collaboration with the India Habitat Centre, the Vadehra Art Gallery, the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, organized a major multi-art festival "AVIRAAM", conducting an art exhibition displaying works of 17 artists, an evening of poetry with 7 poets and a festival of classical dance and music with 11 performers, at the Visual Arts Gallery and the Meghdoot Open Air Theatre. In addition to being a celebration of creativity, imagination and sensitivity of the time through some of the best of the respective fields, it was also a major showcasing of the Raza Foundation awardees of over a decade.
Awards and Publications by Raza Foundation
In the beginning, Raza Foundation gave two awards annually, one in visual arts and the other in poetry. Later the scheme got expanded to cover classical music and classical dance. Each award carries a sum of Rs.1 Lakh and a citation. It can be said without exaggeration that some of the best, most innovative and daring artists, poets, musicians and dancers have been recipients of the highly coveted and prestigious awards of the Foundation, more so because they have been instituted by a great artist who had been the exclusive donor of his personal funds to the Foundation. Apart from the aforementioned honours, the Raza Foundation, over the years, has contributed towards publication of catalogues by young artists, intellectual and creative encounters, publication of English translations of contemporary Indian poetry. The Foundation, in place of its usual awards, proposes to offer Raza Fellowships to young scholars, critics etc., in the domains of visual arts, poetry, music and dance.
A Hindi journal of literature, arts and ideas, ‘Samas’, was launched by Raza Foundation in February 2012. The other published journals of the Foundation include ‘Aroop’, an English publication dedicated to arts, poetry and ideas and ‘Swarmudra’.
The Raza Foundation continues to aspire in playing effective role in living up to the objectives of the Trust, and the nobility and generosity of its great master artist founder.
Arts in India
Indian Classical Music
Indian Classical Dance
Sangeet Natak Akademi