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An Inspiring Story of a Young South Asian Artist

Ravi Kumar's picture

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Can art change your vision for the future?

During the third week of January on a chilly Tuesday evening in Washington, D.C., young artists from the South Asia region gathered in the Wolfensohn Atrium of the World Bank for an exhibition of Imagining Our Future Together, a group exhibition organized by the World Bank to feature works from 25 young South Asian artists. Their art reflects their hope to make South Asia a more united region.

As a young editor of YouThink! and as a South Asian myself, I followed this exhibition with keen interest and great excitement. I went to the Atrium to meet the young artists and experience their art in person.

At the Atrium, the artists displayed and discussed their work. Each piece was impressive in its own right, but one stood out to me. It hung on one of the Atrium’s walls. It was one of the largest and most unusual pieces there.

The installation consisted of four parts, green in color and rich in texture. At the center of these pieces were the “guardians of the four directions” from the Indian national emblem: the lion of the north, the elephant of the east, the horse of the south, and the bull of the west.

As I considered the installation, the artist introduced himself to me. He was a skinny young man with dark eyes and black hair named Navin Chahande. Like his art, his story is unique and inspiring.

Navin grew up in Panchpaoli, Nagpur, one of the largest cities in India. Navin, now in his 30s, says he drew for fun as a child. As we were talking, he recalled with a smile how his mother used to praise his art and encourage him to draw more. I responded by saying how unusual it is for South Asian parents to encourage their children to draw and pursue art.

As someone who grew up in Nepal and studied briefly in India, I know many parents who want their child to be a doctor or engineer. A decade ago, this expectation was a cultural norm. I know my parents really wanted me to be a doctor, but I had something else in mind, as you can see. That’s why I was little surprised to learn that Navin was supported as a child and, more importantly, he feels optimistic about his future as an artist.

He has opened his own studio and makes a decent living in India, he said. With confidence in his voice, he said he went to college to study arts and is now proud to be one of the winners of World Bank South Asia art competition.

As I talked briefly to a few other artists from South Asia, my optimism in South Asia and its youth was strengthened. A young woman from Sri Lanka and two young artists from Nepal—all of them unequivocally spoke about their prospect for bright future. They all were confident in their vision to reunite their societies and make it better for themselves and for future generations. These young artists believed more in their own power to make a difference in their community than in any other established institutions or their governments. Despite all of the challenges South Asia faces, there are some who have vision for the future, and the passion and skills to make a difference, while creating opportunity for themselves and others.

Isn’t that inspiring? Tell us in the comments what has inspired you recently!

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