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Malaysian Philanthropists Partner Princeton to profile south asian art to the World

Mumbai: Brahmal Vasudevan, founder of Southeast Asia private equity firm Creador, and lawyer Shanthi Kandiah have made a significant contribution to Princeton University that aims to profile South Asian art and catapult global appreciation for the genre.
 
The Princeton Board of Trustees announced the new professorship, the Vidya Dehejia Professorship of South Asian Art, on 22 September 2023. The contribution was made via the couple’s Alaka Holdings Trust, which supports philanthropic efforts in three main areas, namely education, healthcare and humanitarian relief, and arts and culture.
 
Vidya Dehejia, the Barbara Stoler Miller Professor Emeritus of Indian Art at Columbia University, was previously the director of the South Asia Institute at Columbia University. She is the author of a catalog on Chola Tamil bronzes which was part of an international exhibition “Chola: Sacred Bronzes of Southern India,” presented by the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2006. The exhibition showcased multiple renaissance periods of Indian art and made a huge impression on Vasudevan.
 
Detailing the reasons behind the contribution, Vasudevan said, “Shanthi and I feel it is important that we make contributions to the societies we live in. While we are Malaysians at heart, we have been fortunate to live in some of the most vibrant cities of the world – Singapore, London, Boston, Palo Alto and New Delhi. However, we found that it was difficult to appreciate Indian art when you live in cities outside of India. With India increasingly becoming an important part of the global ecosystem, we believe more and more people will want to understand the rich and varied culture of this huge country.”
 
After visiting the Chola exhibition in London and rediscovering their passion for South Asian art while living in New Delhi, the couple read many of Vidya Dehejia’s books on Indian art and admired her subsequent projects and lectures.
 
Their relationship with Deheija began when they first reached out to her in 2013. “We were particularly impressed with how she had dedicated her entire career to the learning and dissemination of Indian art knowledge. The study of temples and certain monuments in India is quite controlled, and Vidya was undeterred in her study of them. We felt it was important that her work, and the stature of South Asian art, be cemented in the academic world,” said Kandiah.
 
She added, “The perfect way, we felt, was by partnering with a prestigious university on a professorship, as a complement to a liberal arts education. Our decision centred on the idea that people should use their time in college to explore not just the field of study that they are pursuing, but also to explore other areas of interest.”
 
“Princeton has an amazing reputation in liberal arts and in art history, and we felt would benefit the most from a professorship in South Asian art. The professorship creates a meeting point for a diverse group of talent working independently to come together to share ideas, which in turn opens the door to more cross-pollination of programmes and ideas between South Asia and the United States,” said Vasudevan.
 
“We believe that the evolution of South Asian art — from its initial religious roots to the complex and vibrant contemporary art of today — is a metaphor for the growth of South Asia. This professorship will not just promote a better understanding of South Asia’s history, but by giving a greater insight into the cultural and societal influences shaping the sub-continent, will enable deeper understanding of the future,” he added.
 
“Vidya is not just a leading scholar, but she pioneered the field, training and educating a whole generation of people in this field. Naming the professorship in her honor is a reflection of her lifelong commitment to this subject,” concluded Kandiah.


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