Friday, 15 May 2015

Roses & Thorns - Managing / mismanaging culture - Madhavi Puranam

The first issue of Nartanam of this year is a first for our banner in more ways than one. It is our first special issue on folk forms, a first issue with colour plates, and a first to have been backed by the vision of a bureaucrat, accused in a variety of ways for heaping attention on the Performing Arts of Odisha. Ashok Kumar Tripathy, a dynamic Indian Administrative Services officer of Odisha, with a rare cultural sensibility, empathy, and vision steered at least half a dozen performing arts festivals in Odisha including the Konark and the Dhauli, to become the most prominent festivals of the country. Tripathy roped in the best of the state’s artists and pooled in their sensitivities to curate these festivals.
As Secretary, Odisha Tourism and Culture, Tripathy’s far reaching strategy of ensuring that the visiting media was exposed to every cultural nuance and form of Odisha when they were covering these festivals brought in criticism that the media was lavished with unnecessary attention. The local press resented the national press being sought after. But for the inclusion of Nartanam as a media guest covering Odisha festivals, we would not have gained ready access to the regional scholars, photographers, libraries, archives, artists, and art forms of Odisha. It has helped us put together the content of this issue written by the best of the regional scholars of Odisha at such favourable and competitive production costs that no publishing house or government can envisage. Nartanam is bringing this issue with 50 colour plates to showcase the vibrant folk colours though we cannot afford the high costs of colour printing.

The returns for the money spent on various counts under culture cannot always be tangibly evaluated. Culture demands a work style which is not bureaucratic in nature. In a country where the culture budgets are far lower than most other countries we are also clueless and apathetic to administering / managing culture. It’s time that Indian society, especially the arts community, takes some time off their individual trials and tribulations, and reflects on what ails our Ministry of Culture (MoC).

We raise here a few issues along with the ones highlighted by a High Powered Committee (HPC) set up by the MoC, through an Office Memorandum (No.8/69/ 2013-Akademis) dated the 15th January 2014 to examine the issues related to the mandate, composition etc. of the cultural organizations viz. National School of Drama (NSD), Centre for Cultural Resources &Training (CCRT), Lalit Kala Akademi, Sahitya Akademi, Sangeet Natak Akademi, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Indira Gandhi National Centre of Arts (IGNCA) and Zonal Cultural Centres (ZCCs) etc. and to suggest measures to monitor their performance.

The most pertinent question is whether the MoC is equipped to deal with its mandate of administering culture. Can the MoC which deals with matters of intellect, aesthetics, and creativity, be run the way most other Ministries are run? Does it have the expertise and manpower to deal with its mandate? Even the simplest of its duties are not discharged efficiently. 

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