By Aditi Chakravarty

Aditi ChakravartyDr. Meghali Goswami lives and is working in Assam. At present she is working in the Department of Visual Art, Assam University, Silchar as an Assistant Professor teaching Art History. She contributes regularly to national and international journals. Recently her book titled ‘Aesthetic of Time: A view of Fatehpur Sikri Motifs’ has been released from New Delhi. Knowing Meghali personally since they were students at Govt. College of Art & Craft, Aditi Chakravarty discussed many subjects related to art and Dr. Goswami’s life and work. The following are excerpts of that interview:

Aditi Chakravarty: What made you take up art history as a subject?

Dr. Meghali goswamiDr. Meghali Goswami: Well it’s kind of a funny story…. way back, there was a Pakisthani serial ‘Dhoop Kinare’ which I enjoyed watching. And there was a character of a girl who was taking up a course in Fine Arts, I was influenced and got desperate to go for a Fine Arts Course. I was not at all aware of what the course offered and I got pretty excited to know that there was a Government College of Art and Crafts where my distant cousin was studying and it is through her that I was introduced to the college. But after a few months of joining the institute as a Fine Arts student I found Art History a very interesting subject and took up the study very seriously. I also feel that to develop the interest toward a subject the teacher plays a very vital role.

AC: Can you tell us some more about your childhood and education?

Dr. MG: I was born and brought up in Shillong. I did my schooling for Pine Mount School and then moved on to pursue Fine Arts in Guwahati from Government College of Art and Crafts. As there is no art history subject offered in the master degree level therefore I completed my Master Degree course in Art History from the National Museum Institute of History of Arts, Museology and Conservation, New Delhi. After that I took a break from my education and took up a part time job. But my quest for pursuing higher studies was making me desperate. One day it happened that I saw an advertisement for a PhD programme in Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee that was the turning point in my life as it was for the first time that a PhD in fine arts was awarded from amongst all the IITs. At present I am working in the Department of Visual Arts, Assam University, Silchar, as an Assistant Professor teaching Art History.

AC: What is it that inspires you to write about a particular subject?

Dr. MG: If I feel that a subject is attracting me because of different consequences I enjoy writing about it. I also yearn to research subjects which are mostly untouched.

AC: Which famous artists or writers have influenced you and how?

Dr. MG: The first inspirations are definitely the elder artists of Assam like Shobha Brahma, writer Nelomoni Phukon. I would like to say that personally one lady who inspired me is Late Mamoni Roisom Goswami for reasons which I do not want to share at this moment. I would also like to mention two authors who makes me gear up namely Paulo Coelho and Robin Sharma.

AC: What do you do for fun apart from reading and writing?

Dr. MG: I have a very packed schedule. It may sound very weird if I say that sometimes I feel that 24 hours is not enough to complete one day’s assignments. But I do like to give most of my time to my daughter, Shivangi, if I am not working.

AC: What do you feel about the present situation of art writing in Assam?

Dr. MG: Art writing in Assam has been practiced by writers and critics for many decades. I would like to mention some of the writers who had contributed in the field of art and who need to be acknowledged such as Professor Nelomoni Phukan, Dr. R.D Choudhury, Dr. Maheshwar Neog, Dr.Naran Kalita, Dr. Narayan Das and many more. At the present time, there is lot of art writing in Assam but if I am to be frank the art scenario lacks real art criticism.

AC: Apart from teaching what are the other activities that you are involved in for example contribution in writing books and projects.

There are many students who are very interested but the entire region of North East India is not offering a course in Art History and many of the interested students, due to lack of finance or lack of information can not follow their dreams.

Dr. MG: Other then my regular teaching, I am contributing regularly to national and international journals. I am a regular contributor in the art magazine Art & Deal where I focus upon the contemporary scenario of the art of North East India. I am also the editor for a very new bilingual art magazine called Canvas published from New Delhi. Just a few months back, my book entitled ‘Aesthetics of Time: A View of Fathepur Sikri Motifs’ has been released from New Delhi and a monograph of the contemporary artist Meghansh Thapa is in print. Also very recently I had the privilege to write the text for some plates which were released for the Department of Visual Arts Silchar of two pioneer artists of Barak Valley Mukunda Debnath and Late Birendra Lal Bhowmik. I was also awarded the Nehru Trust Fellowship small study grants for Victoria and Albert Museum London for the project on Textile and Jewelleries of the Khasi and the Garo Tribes of Meghalaya. At present I am working on two projects along with my regular commitments.

AC: There are very limited students  interested in your subject while it has great demand in the present scene, what is the reason for this?  

Dr. MG: I don’t agree with that statement. Actually there are many students who are very interested but the entire region of North East India is not offering a course in Art History and many of the interested students, due to lack of finance or lack of information can not follow their dreams. But very soon Assam University Silchar will be starting Art History specialization in the Department of Visual Arts. I would like to mention that this is the only University which also offers PhD programme in Visual Arts in the entire North East Region of India.

AC: Where do you see yourself in the present art scene in Assam?

Dr. MG: You see, from my side I am trying my best to contribute to this region through writings about the art and culture of the North East region of India, especially Assam. I feel that to promote any art work some writing of that particular art piece is also important. It’s just a beginning for me so I have a lot to do before I can position myself in this segment.

AC: Who or what in your life has influenced you the most?

Dr. MG: Every day life and observations, experiences and situations are the prime factors of my inspiration. I always read the life history of those people who struggled to achieve their goal by overcoming all hurdles in life. I would like to mention A P J Abdul Kalam and Stephen Hawking as my sources of inspiration.

AC: Would you please recommend an important book for our readers?

Dr. MG: As such it is very difficult to recommend a specific book because every individual has different taste in reading material. However, for getting information on art history of the west the book History of Art by H.W Janson is good. To know about Far Eastern art some good reference books are ‘A History of Far Eastern Art’ by Lee, Sherman E. and ‘Myths and symbols in Indian Art and Civilization’ by Heinrich Robert Zimmer for the Indian section.
But here I would like to mention that an individual must also keep information of the art and culture of the place he or she is enveloped within.

AC: What is your dream project for the future?

Dr. MG: My dream project is to do some kind of work where I can make an effort to bring into limelight the contemporary art of North East India in the national as well as international level.

AC: How would you describe your writings to someone who has not read any of them?

Dr. MG: Well that is a very difficult question to be answered. If I have to describe my writing I will say that I express my text in a very simplified manner, I write with honesty and I am very straightforward in my critical appreciation of any piece of art done by an artist.

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