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Guest lecture: Nada Raza from the Tate Research Centre: Asia

Jun 20, 2018

On June 26, Nada Raza, Research Curator at the Tate Research Centre: Asia, gave a guest lecture at the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies. It took place at 6 pm, and was titled “From Kochi-Muziris to the Heart of Sharjah: Coastal Biennials and the Lure of Maritime Pasts.” The lecture was organized by the Professorship of Global Art History.

Nada Raza’s lecture dealt with the the inaugural Kochi-Muziris Biennal, which, in 2012 claimed its site, Fort Cochin in Kerala, as a heterogeneous, free space with a cosmopolitan history, allowing a blurring of conventional ethno-linguistic boundaries. The conscious evocation of the lost historic port city of Muziris connected contemporary Kochi to a deeper and pre-national past, and Kerala to a world wider than merely India. The framing of the medieval port as host city inevitably emulates Venice, where the ‘global’ art world has displayed its power since 1895.

Another biennial model in the region was established in Sharjah. Expanding from a small international exhibition into a powerful commissioner and funder of artistic production across the region, the Sharjah Biennial and Foundation is an influential force in what is known as MENASA: the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, with the Gulf as its ostensible centre. While Dubai is the new mercantile medina, Sharjah claims for itself the cultural mecca. Meanwhile, a real estate development project in the area around the biennial venue is slowly transforming the city into a simulation of a pre-colonial Arabian port city.

The lecture dealt with questions such as: How might this play of contemporary art and deep historical time, and of geographical shifts and recentering, affect the construction of the biennial model across the Indian Ocean littoral?

Nada Raza is Research Curator at the Tate Research Centre: Asia, with a particular focus on South Asia. Previously Assistant Curator at the Tate Modern, she contributed to Meschac Gaba: Museum of Contemporary African Art in 2013 and curated Bhupen Khakhar: "You Can’t Please All" in 2016. Alongside leading  acquisitions from the region she has worked on collection displays of work by Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian and Zarina Hashmi in 2012, Sheela Gowda in 2016, and Amar Kanwar in 2017. Raza curated a thematic exhibition, "The Missing One" for the Dhaka Art Summit in Bangladesh and the Office for Contemporary Art in Norway in 2016 and was selected to be the curator of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2014. She is also a PhD candidate at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.