Internationally renowned British Punjabi artist Chila Kumari Burman gives her insight on the role of art in tackling inequality and wider social issues.
The Stellar International Art Foundation, founded by the Choudhrie family over a decade ago, brings to light the inequalities embedded within the art world, celebrating diversity and equality as a movement for cultural and social change. The events they organise provide opportunitiesfor necessary conversations on equality and diversity, and the work that Mrs Choudrie and the Stellar Arts Foundation does, is exemplary in not only the art world, but the world in general.
I was honoured to have been invited to speak at one of their events to share my inspirations and visions for fostering social and political change.
I have always been passionate about exposing cultural and social diversities through the medium of art to provoke questions and the explosion of colour that characterises my unique artwork has always been present within my life. As an Indian woman growing up in Liverpool, I was exposed to a spectrum of different cultures that not only made me who I am today but have manifested themselves within my work. From the colourful walls of the house I grew up in to the memory of my father’s ice cream van, I was immersed in colour and it still plays a huge part in my work and it’s narrative.
Equality, in terms of race, gender and culture, is something else that has always been at the centre of my artistic work. Diversity in creativity presents innovations and opportunities that would not appear without the full spectrum of talent.
Growing up, I didn’t actually experience vast amounts of racial inequality, but I do feel it’s important that we support the work of artists from the Diaspora. This is a theme that I feature strongly within my work and is a topic that must be addressed. The world is on a path to change and embracing the fight is the only way that we can truly make social and political change for good.
The arts should take a lead in championing diversity and equality, whether it be a question of race, gender or ethnicity; which is exactly why foundations like Stellar need to be supported and encouraged. Artistic expression has the potential to drive change and must not be underestimated. According to the latest statistics, female artists are significantly overlooked in galleries too, making it even more important to advance feminism within the art world.
Without a doubt, I would describe myself as an artist and an activist. Equality is an important and relevant topic that is beginning to get recognition and gain momentum in all walks of life. Specifically, within art, now is our time to progress, develop and realise our true potential.
Chila Kumari Burman is an internationally renowned British Punjabi artist. Chila’s work is currently on display in the Tate Collection, Wellcome Collection, British council collection, Victoria and Albert museum collection, Devi foundation collection and Richard Brandon. She has just received an Honorary Doctorate and January Fellowship by the University of arts London.