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Ayana Arts First South Asian Art Showcase Promises a Fusion of East and West

4 min read

by Soni Satpathy-Singh

This post was originally published on our partner website India.com.

A very special performance will be taking place on Saturday, September 17, in downtown New York City. Ayana Arts will host their first-ever collaborative South Asian art showcase which benefits SAYA, the South Asian Youth Action.

Ayana Arts defines themselves as:

“A community of young professionals with a passion for the South Asian arts and the shared goal of creating a dynamic performance that celebrates our diverse interests and talents while giving back to our community.”

They are all about pushing boundaries of traditional South Asian performing arts while remaining rooted in and honoring South Asian culture and heritage, according to their website.


Team member Mariam Matin explained that the key to creating a fusion while remaining rooted in and honoring South Asian culture is to understand both, eastern and western traditions. “We have to appreciate how diverse, complicated, and full of history both the sides are. If you take the time to familiarize yourself with any particular heritage, particularly one as colorful as South Asian, you understand where to stay true to tradition while blending it with something new.”  

The September 17 show promises to illustrate numerous art traditions. The name of the show is “Undefined,” which is befitting for their debut considering Ayana Arts deliberately identifies itself as not being vested in one type of art or performance.

Matin articulated this desire to remain undefined in that Ayana’s “members are simply looking for an outlet to do bhangra, explore classical fusion, write about their heritage, or even just get their fix of a good two hours of Bollywood dance. We’re driven by the interests and artistic needs of our artists, which we hope will continue to develop and grow.”


She added that they want their members, new and potential, to have a sense of autonomy in defining performative art. “Ayana itself does not fit into any kind of category, nor do any of us. I think sometimes, whether you are South Asian or not, you feel the pressure to be the perfect ‘fill-in-the-blank’ that you can be. You are measured by the standard of some arbitrary and abstract archetype,” Matin continued. “The problem is, we are all a bundle of so many identities at once. Many of us in the show, for example, come from a South Asian background but were raised here in the United States. It’s no secret that balancing those two identities can be incredibly challenging. There is no such thing as the perfect anything or anyone.”

Matin said that the show celebrates the idea that there are an infinite number of beautiful ways to celebrate all sides of who you are. “We try and find a few, such as Bharatnatyam with Major Lazer, breaking it down to Bollywood, and doing a good thumka to old school hip hop.”

Many of us in the diaspora look for activities, performances, and events that bridge together our South Asian and American identities. It makes us feel more in touch with both the cultures. Could Ayana Arts be the touchstone for exploring our hyphenated identities through art?  In fact, we can even be a part of it.

Ayana is interested in forming a diverse set of partnerships and relationships with talented individuals and other non-profits in the city and beyond. They stress that “the ultimate goal of Ayana is to give back to the community in meaningful ways, big and small. As long as our collaborators, in whatever shape or form they are comfortable with, are willing to help with that, we’re open to meeting them.”


This Saturday’s show will speak better to the diversity they hope to continue to showcase in giving back to the community in an artistic and meaningful way. The bulk of the show is dance, but there will also be spoken word, music, and visual arts in the lobby.

And though this will be the vibe of Saturday’s event, Ayana’s events will surely differ from event to event as they promise to be “driven by the interests and artistic needs of our artists,” which will undoubtedly help them “to continue to develop and grow.”

We cannot wait to see what these firecrackers have in store for the future! In the meantime, be sure to get your ticket for Saturday’s event by clicking here.

All proceeds from the show will go to SAYA, a youth development organization committed to connecting youth from all backgrounds to opportunities.

SAYA’s mission is to foster a strong sense of belonging in youth and provide them with tools to thrive academically, professionally and personally.

[Photos via: ayanaarts]

Soni Satpathy-Singh is a recipe writer and developer who resides in Manhattan. She is either always cooking or eating be it for work or simply because she loves to! She is working on her own cookbook and also recently created “Sketchy Desi” which provides daily humor, greeting cards, and apparel that celebrate brown culture. To see more of Sketchy Desi’s work, visit www.facebook.com/sketchydesi/ or stay tuned to upcoming posts on Brown Girl Magazine.