Nisha Tandon is the founder and director of ArtsEkta. She holds a degree from the National School of Drama in New Delhi and is a trained Bharatanatyam Indian classical dancer. Nisha is a member of the executive board of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland by appointment from the Minister for Communities. From 2002-2005, she worked to support the development of the Indian Community Centre and in 2007 initiated Northern Ireland’s first multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary arts festival Belfast Mela. In June 2014, Nisha was awarded an OBE for services to the minority ethnic sector in the 2014 Queen’s Honours List. Here she reflects on her participation in Seminar 2 on Dominant Ideologies at Queen’s University Belfast on 6/7 April 2017.
In this changing environment, Arts and Culture face a number of challenges. It was very timely to have two days for a very thought provoking conference to give us a focus on interrogating the role of arts and cultural management through local, national and international perspectives.
For me personally I got a lot of insight into how different countries and institutions are practicing interculturalism and cultural diversity issues. The richness of our cultures and the cultural practices should benefit communities across the country we live in and beyond. Our Cultural and Arts sectors make a crucial contribution to the regeneration, health and wellbeing of the regions, towns, cities and villages. The role of artists and the arts mangers plays a critical part and everyone should have a chance to flourish in their own ways, and especially to listen to the very vulnerable.
The message from each presentation was very clear that the Arts and Culture plays an active role in building a fairer and most prosperous nation. It is also apparent that across nations, we are all addressing the issue and challenges of funding, respect and appreciation for diversity and communicating the value of Arts and Culture. The conference played an important role in bringing arts managers, institutions, and individual artists together from local, international and local perspectives in this extraordinary network of individuals and organisations to reflect on ourselves and our rich diversity.
There are huge barriers in understanding the Cultural Arts in NI particularly from the underrepresented groups both at Policy level and in Community and Professional Arts. The second day of the Conference gave an opportunity to present the work undertaken by a few arts organisations from Belfast. The seminar gave us the platform to showcase our national and international counter parts and discuss how we deliver our day to day work and the challenges we face. There were mixed views but each presentation had it’s own merit and gave a very clear message that lots more needs to be done at the Policy level. Still in my opinion there is no clear pathways into the cultural sectors for the people from ethnic, disability and LGBT communities. These barriers will still exist until we have the leadership committed to see more sustained change and approaches. Too few people from these groups work at the highest levels in the cultural organisations or institutions.
The understanding of intercultural arts practice has not been imbedded enough in our daily practices. More research, more policy work needs to be done and conferences like these will help us to think more collectively.