As the country marks the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus-induced lockdown, there is much for us to reflect on. For Ekaterina Semenushkova, Russian expat and founder of Atlas—an organisation that promotes socio-cultural ties between the two countries—the lockdown was a period to reflect and create. The fruits of her reflection and those of the fellow members of her organisation are now coming to light, through an interesting art exhibition set to be on display at Delhi’s India International Centre from 6-11 April. “Just People”will display the works of non-professional artists from the large and vibrant expat community in India, specifically made during the lockdown.
In preparation for the event, Semenushkova speaks exclusively to The Sunday Guardian. Excerpts:
Q.Please tell us about the vision behind Atlas—the socio-cultural centre you have founded?
A. Our goal is to organise social and cultural projects in Russia and abroad, in the fields of art and culture, sports and creativity. At the moment, our organisation’s activities are concentrated in India in order to generate strong ties between expats, to popularise Russian culture and to develop intercultural cooperation between our countries.
Q.What, according to you, ties the Russian culture closely with the Indian culture?
In Russia people enjoy watching Bollywood films. They are also interested in Indian cuisine, yoga and are fond of the work of Rabindranath Tagore. Similarly, in India, people know the famous Russian writers Pushkin and Tolstoy well, and even have monuments dedicated to them in Delhi. I believe that Indians value Russian culture very much.
Q. What activities has Atlas organised in the past?
A. We regularly host women’s meetings known as “Brunch in Dresses”, where we discuss different topics including style, psychology, art, among others. Besides that, we meet for a Russian book club to discuss books every couple of months. We also organise photo shoots for expats wearing Indian ethnic clothes, in collaboration with a professional photographer.
Q.Do you encourage participation of people of all nationalities in Atlas events, or are they meant mostly for the Russian expat community?
A. Of course, I look forward to opening the doors of Atlas to people of all nationalities, and would love for more people to attend our events.
Q.How did the idea of “Just People Art” Exhibition evolve?
A. I am very fond of creating art and organising events. In the process of meeting and communicating with people, I discovered that many of my expat friends also enjoy drawing pictures, embroidery, and other creative work. Believe me when I say, despite having no professional training, these people create masterpieces! We are simply not used to thinking of artists as normal people like us, and believe them to be from some other world. However, they are just people who live, work and practice their hobbies. This is the reason behind the name of our exhibition—Just People.
Q.How many artists will be exhibiting their works in this exhibition?
A. Currently, we have 17 artists on board, and I would be glad if others want to join and display their work too. We have booked the large light gallery at the India International Centre, which caters to large participation. Further, there is an interesting contest for the participants with gifts from Decathlon.
Q. I believe the proceeds from sales of these artworks will go towards charity. Could you please share more details on this?
A. Yes, the proceeds will go to the Main Tendue charity. This organisation offers financial, material and physical support to Indian NGOs caring for children, women in need and disabled people in the Delhi area.
Q. Why do you prefer to showcase only works made by non-professional artists?
A. The aim of the exhibition is to support and encourage young artists living abroad, and I hope the exhibition will lead to the discovery of new talent and make them confident of their abilities.
Q. What was your personal experience of the lockdown? Did your feelings play out through your art works on display?
A. Like everyone else, I was anxious throughout that period. It was particularly hard because I was in a foreign country. I have created a fluid art painting on this topic which I have called Unknown.
Q. What do you have planned next for Atlas?
A. We will continue to organise interesting projects in the future. The exhibition Just People is planned as an annual event. Further, I am planning to organise separate events on Russian culture and famous writers from Russia.
To participate in the exhibition or for any other queries, one may contact Ekaterina Semenushkova at [email protected]
The interviewer is a lawyer who pens feature articles for various publications and on her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be reached on [email protected]