Other Asias is a transnational family of creative collectives and critical research currents, founded & directed by artist-curator-writer-activist Hamja Ahsan and friends.
Other Asias was founded in 2008. Before its formal organisation, Other Asias started as a conversation between friends on a bus that evolved in the Central Saint Martins library on Charing Cross after a screening of Bangladeshi short films in East London. Its context was the plethora of regional survey shows from the recent commercial booms of Asian economies, the crescendos around "crisis of Multiculturalism" in parliamentary rhethoric, the rise of Asia global power and decline of unipoplar West.
Over time we collectively discussed bad "Human rights" arts, humorous misreadings by ignorant Westerners, crass and harmful representations of Islamic people, the shortcomings of BME public inclusion strategies and the NGOisation of third world subjects.
We have worked with over 100 artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, dancers, architects, designers, bloggers and non-art creative and critical practioners from across the world - from Korea to Sibera, from East London to Almaty, from Dhaka to New York, with additional focus on South Asia and Islamicate orientations of the world, history and futures.
We were nominated for Al Hamra award for excellence in the arts 2013.
We co-founded the DIY Cultures festival with Sofia Niazi of OOMK.
Other Asias is a general enquiry in independent curating, community-building and cultural resistance on a shoestring.
Other Asias went on hiatus as Hamja toured the world with Shy Radicals project, and was reborn in 2023.
We stole our name from a Gayatri Spivak book.
Co-founders and Curators: Fatima Hussain (Left) and Hamja Ahsan (Right)
at Deptford X festival 2009, London.
Curator of Art, Publishing, Research and Media Project (based in London, UK and Dhaka)
Hamja Ahsan (born 1981, London) is an artist, curator and civil liberties activist based in London (UK)/ Dhaka (Bangladesh).
Ahsan has exhibited extensively nationally in the UK and Internationally. He has presented projects at Tate Britain, Shiplakala Academy (Bangladesh), the Guild Gallery in New York, Resonance FM and Gwangju Biennale. A significant body of his work is concerned with the contested Post-Liberation histories of Africa and Asia, Islamic resistance movements and diaspora politics. He has interested in the space between curatorial practice and fine art practice, the potentiality of DIY curating and rethinking the amateur/professional axis.
Ahsan was a commisioned artist for Bangladesh Independence Day, producing a video backdrop at a concert featuring a reformed Asian Dub Foundation and State of Bengal.
His most recent solo exhibition "Nation-Building" was held at Watermans Arts Centre in 2010.
Hamja is an alumni of Central Saint Martins (BA Fine Art) and Chelsea College of Art and Design (MA Critical Writing and Curatorial Practice) and the Gwangju Biennale International Curators course.
Hamja was nominated for a Shell Our Heroes award 2012 for the Free Talha Ahsan campaign and an Al Hamra award for excellence in the Arts 2013 for Other Asias projects.
Hamja tweets at @hamjaahsan
Hamja Blogs at :
1) D. I. Y. Curator - thoughts on independent curating, cultural autonomy and contesting the overprofessionalisation of curatorial practice: https://diycurator.tumblr.com
2) Diversity Nightmare -lateral takes in race relations and multi-culture through the medium of horror ....: diversitynightmare.tumblr.com
3) Curator in Korea - documenting his time in Seoul and Gwangju Biennale International curators course, intersections with South Asian and Islamic Cultures, Korean diaspora in UK: curatorinkorea.tumblr.com
4) Bangla Art Archives - documenting contemporary artworld in Dhaka and Chittagong and the Bengali diaspora, includes interviews and studio visits in post-production: https://banglacurator.tumblr.com
See ARTISTS page, Production Circle, Support Circle, Research Circle for other people involved in our projects.
Above: aftershow photograph of first exhibition in basement gallery of Nolias Gallery in 2008.
Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Artist and Writer, RAQs Media Collective, Delhi : "I find the published and printed matter produced by the Other Asias collective very impressive. The content is sharp and thoughtful, and always thought provoking. I hope that this work can expand in many different directions and act as an effective bridge between different experiences, between cultures, spaces and generations. Hamja and Fatima are both energetic, intelligent and hugely effective cultural workers, I wish them the very best in their life and careers as artists, curators, critics, catalysts and citizens. "
Oreet Ashery, artist, Spill Festival jury and Thinker in Residence, 2011 "Other Asias has been working relentlessly to bring to and from London films, performances, publications, event and discourses from Pakistan and Bangladesh and other parts of the world. Their networks are fluid, open and sustainable and offer unique models of working, not seen before. Their vision is highly critical, yet offer localised and accessible points of entry.
Other Asias have also engaged with a discourse around the Middle east and in particular Palestine in ways that transcend geopolitical borders, yet totally specific to the region. Considering contested notions of diversity in the London art world, Other Asias are a reminder that only by constant questioning and updating the discourse can remain mobilised. Hamja and Fatima are both dynamic, critical, intelligent, humorous , inclusive and relentless contributors to the cultural landscape of London and internationally. They deserve support more than anyone I can think of in all activities related to their professional and personal lives."
Fuad Ali, IMASE coordinator and participating artist: "REDO Pakistan really enriched the south asian/post colonial conceptual space for me this season. I felt our generation was being articulated, beautifully and without homogenisation. We were not being framed by others and delivered into packaging by ethnic gatekeepers. It was a space where politics met art with spirit and hope. The Nuclear Nationalism event was unique and could only have been arranged by Hamja and Fatima.
I remember the film night during Ramadan which led up to sunset in an awesome (spiritually) nourishing way. In the wake of the recent floods in Pakistan there had been a deluge of ultimately limited fundraising activities. With deft handling, REDO pulled of a corker, creating possibilities with poetry and film and accessing something precious to projects of this nature, the rhythm imagination and intensity of community life."
"Hamja's outstanding abilities in publicising his projects have also enabled him
to set attendance records at departure for both film showings and for
exhibition openings. In doing this he was responsible for introducing many
new people to departure and its activities. Hamja seems to have the enviable
knack of being able to attract significant numbers of members from the South
Asian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities into departure, which is a
Christian-based arts centre, thus drawing folk of Muslim background and
other religious groups, including both young and mature adults, into a truly
multi-cultural and multi-ethnic environment. To create situations that
encourage such a broad range of individuals from a variety of religious and
socio-economic backgrounds to attend art-focused events in East London is
no mean feat...Each of these projects has maintained the sort of successes
mentioned above, thereby accomplishing - and on a very modest budget! -
what other relatively local, highly-financed, state-supported projects with
similar aims have failed to achieve.”
“This looks like a really important project, and glad to be part of it. All looks
good, I particularly liked the front page regarding multiple Jinnahs... REDO
PAKISTAN seems a very good destination.”
Gemma Sharpe – British Curator & Art Critic who worked with Other
Asias as a writer:
“As a writer variously engaging with art worlds in South Asia, through
magazine writing, residencies and research visits, I have been able to gain
a fuller picture of my practice and it's implications through working with
Other Asias. Strangely, it can sometimes seem very difficult to engage with
art worlds that operate even within your own, particularly when ideas of
identity and ethnicity are at stake; ideas that are usually tested in
conversation at one basic level and through grand exhibitions and symposia
at the other. Other Asias presents a space in between those poles, and
having worked with both Fatima and Hamja in Pakistan and London
respectively, I can say that the project has fundamentally shifted my
approach; mediating my notions of the 'foreign' against the local, the local
inside the foreign, and perhaps most importantly, it has opened up so many
unknowns within the place that I call home. Pitching conversation and
collaboration on it's side, Other Asias is a resource from which I can derive
and also contribute, and this reciprocal nature is it's best asset.”
Avaes Mohammad: "Working on Redo Pakistan 2010 has been a throughly inspiring process for me as it has allowed me to work amongst a network of artists, from various disciplines, brought together purely upon the basis of a common theme and belief. Redo Pakistan acknowledges and actively utilises the inherent power of art and artists as instruments of social reform and in so doing has proved inspirational and undoubtedly sits as a project of great importance internationally and nationally, serving people of all backgrounds in its unrivalled example of how artists can directly engage with state ideologies. I thoroughly look forward to my continued contributions to this project."
Sadia Ur-Rehman - Pariticipating artists, Commisioned artist:“It provides a platform for artists who are not in the mainstream and another voice about what’s happening in Asia and the diaspora. This can help change the country’s image, raise awareness and provide a platform, voices from the country are not able to make themselves heard.”
Khaldoon Ahmed – Pakistani-diaspore Filmmaker. Commisioned artist:“Redo Pakistan has created a contemporary art setting that actually engages issue of politics and identity as people experience them. I screened two of my films in packed out galleries. The events turned into an ongoing conversation and I hope they continue.”
Ali Zaidi, Motiroti director
"redo pakistan allows the audience - not only from pakistan, a moment to reflect and refract questions on nationhood, patriotism and creates a space where art and activism blur the boundaries. its a emerging and important cultural and artistic forum that needs more time, space and investment (in all senses of the word). all best and looking forward to the next season!"
Dan Fox, Associate editor- FRIEZE Magazine :
“I was highly impressed by this.... [and on website] The sheer amount of
information it includes - and, navigation-wise, presents really clearly - is quite
something. Hats off to you and your team for doing this.”
David Medalla, Artists for Democracy/ London Biennle:
"Your REDO Newspaper is an excellent publication. Congratulations and best wishes for its continuous success."
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