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Re-Framing Representation:
A College Internship Project
Considering South Asian
Representation in Western Museums & Galleries

With a population of nearly 5.4 million*, South Asians are one of the fastest growing demographics in the United States. Following trends in other countries such as the U.K., this is naturally created calls for discourse around the complexities of representation in many areas, including the controversial topic of artifact repatriation. The history of South Asian artwork displayed in Western museums more often than not ties into darker themes of colonization, exploitation, and eurocentrism. In recent years, many museums have responded to these criticisms and taken measures to educated themselves and their audiences of these nuances. We were inspired to create a more holistic understanding of the current state of these institutions and their representation of South Asian art by writing a series of articles featuring museums across the Midwestern and Northeastern United States**. 

To write these articles, we worked over the course of a summer internship to visit museums to observe galleries in person, interview curators and museum staff, and conduct some outside research. The resulting articles are editorials and include information about the art, how it is being presented to the public, why this is important, and our personal reflections on how the presentation may be improved. 

* Source:

** This is an on-going project and we hope to reach other areas of the US and wider Western world in future. 

Note: These articles reflect the personal findings and thoughts of the interns who wrote them and do not necessarily reflect the views of Aangan as an organization. 



Insiya Motiwala

Insiya Motiwala is a student at New York University's Abu Dhabi campus. She studies art history and specializes in museum administration and art as property. This is reflected in her reviews as she highlights questions of management including the goal of a museum as well the role of the audience. Her work covers art spaces in NYC consisting of the many popular museums as well as smaller galleries. As a Pakistani immigrant to the US, Insiya’s personal experience of South Asian art is through decorative folk art, textiles and other mediums that are not traditionally considered “high art.” She visited and reviewed a total of five institutions throughout the summer; Aicon Gallery, Rubin Museum, Met Museum, Asia Society Museum, and Brooklyn Museum.

Talia Dave 

Talia Dave is a senior at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. She studies Religion, Anthropology, and Sociology, and recently completed her thesis, titled "Monstrous, Sensual, and Unapologetic: Shurpanakha and Lilith, the Villainesses of Cautionary Tales." Talia's work on this project has allowed her to expand her knowledge of South Asian art and awareness of how it is presented. She visited and reviewed the Cleveland Museum of Art and the University of Michigan Museum of Art. 

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