The Pind Collective: Creativity beyond conflict

Avani Tandon Vieira and Ansh Ranvir Vohra’s initiative brings together artists from India and Pakistan to facilitate dialogue and produce content in various forms of media. 

by Madhulina Mallik

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The founders of The Pind Collective come from varying ends of the art world. While Avani has studied Liberal Arts, Ansh is an award winning digital filmmaker. They cooked up the idea of the collective last year, which has culminated into a virtual platform for artists in India and Pakistan to collaborate and produce art through various media. 

Avani and Ansh believe that though the two countries have been in political and historical conflict, each nation has its own unique story to tell. It is an effort to bring together young creative minds from across borders to reflect the “contemporary spaces and identities” they occupy. The collective is currently working with 10 artists – 6 from India and 4 from Pakistan – which includes filmmakers, dancers, poets, illustrators and theatre artists.

INKLINE: How did you come up with the concept of The Pind Collective?

Avani Tandon: I had the opportunity to travel to Pakistan a few years ago and it was an incredible experience, particularly because of the people I had the opportunity to meet. After I returned to India, it became glaringly clear that had I not physically crossed the border, I would never have had a chance to meet these young people, even though we had so much in common.

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© The Pind Collective

For most of my friends in India, this would continue to be true. This prompted me to think about what I could do to help build those bridges. The arts have always been a major part of my life and I realised that a collaborative art platform would be a powerful way to start a conversation.

Ansh Ranvir: For a long time, I’ve felt that art in isolation begins to lose relevance and at some point, ends up being reduced to an indulgence. So it’s extremely important to work in conjunction with an active community of artists and audiences, to ensure a healthy exchange of ideas and experiences. To have the opportunity to do that, especially with such a wide range of practitioners from either side of the border, was something I felt I shouldn’t let go of.

I: What is the aim of your initiative?

AT: I think what we are trying to do with our collective is provide a platform through which younger people can respond to what surrounds them, whether that is in terms of their immediate, personal lives or the politics of the spaces around them. The idea, really, is to move beyond inherited biases – to react to moments and struggles in our capacity as individuals, and not merely as an echo of what older generations believe.

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AR: And those reactions don’t even have to be outright political in nature. Some of the best artworks we received spoke about something very personal and, yet, we’re able to engage with thousands of people on either side of the border. And that’s precisely the point: to identify each other through the stories we choose to tell; to remind each other that nations are not homogeneous entities; that they’re a living, thriving community of unique, distinctive voices.

I: What sorts of hurdles (if any) did you have to face while setting up the collective?

AT: As the project became more defined, I realised the scale of work required. It’s a very visual space and as a literature student, I really didn’t have the tools required to do justice to the task of curating work at the level I wanted. At this point, I reached out to Ansh, who was already on board as a filmmaker in the collective.

AR: When we started out, Avani and I had absolutely no experience running a collective, coordinating with artists or setting up a website. All of these are things we had to learn overnight. When we were pitching the project to all of the participating artists, we had no working model they could refer to. And so all of the effort they put into their pieces was based purely on trust.

There was also sometimes the question of whether we intended for the collective to be a vehicle for activism. And while the short answer to that question is ‘no’, what I do believe is that the personal and the political don’t necessarily have to be independent of each other. They can overlap, often beautifully, to create pieces that might be extremely intimate in nature but can also, at the same time, take a strong political stand.

I: What has the response been like?

AT: Simply in terms of numbers, I think we’ve generated a lot of interest not just within our own extended social circles but also so many people outside of it. I mean we were able to reach out to some 67,000 people across borders within a month of our launch and initiate some extremely interesting conversations, some of them existing even outside the confines of the collective.

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© The Pind Collective

AR: What we also really value is the personal reactions that these pieces have prompted. People have reached out with personal stories, shared our work with their family and friends, and have started conversations that are immensely powerful. In the years to come, we want to do justice to the project and people who have supported us so far. We are looking to connect with as many young artists as possible, especially from Pakistan.

I: What future plans do you have for the Collective?

AT: We are working on the second phase with our current artists and are also recruiting for our second cycle. We are looking to connect with as many young artists as possible, especially from Pakistan. We would love to know about their work and start a conversation about how we can get their voices heard.

AR: We’ve spent the last few months getting the word out there, reaching out to lots of young people and speaking about the need for more spaces like these. We also hope to have an on-ground collaboration at some point, though I do realise it’s going to be a logistical nightmare.

Madhulina Mallik is a broadcast journalist based in India. She divides her time between living inside her own head and living vicariously through literary characters. She is the new age ‘Dora the explorer’ who will go to any lengths to travel.

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