With north of one billion residents living on the Indian subcontinent alone—joined by some twenty-four million South Asians from across the globe—artists Anuva Kalawar and Jasmine Vasandani decidedly belong to the world's largest diaspora. But where the networks that connect these populations are concerned, viable routes to authentic representation, meaningful engagement, and critical support remain staggeringly limited for artists and creatives-at-large.
Acknowledging this deficit, the New York-based team set out to build a platform that lets South Asian creatives and entrepreneurs share their work on their own terms. In a recent interview for NEW INC, Kalawar said that the resulting project, A1BAZAAR, has been in "psychic development" for some time. "Living in diaspora is what defines both of our existences," Kalawar said. "We navigate the world through a lens of migration and cultural experimentation and re-negotiation.”
In their search for inspiration, the pair said they turned to the marketplaces that are all but ubiquitous to South Asia and their communities in diaspora. "They are multi-sensory and defined by fluid categories," Vasandani explained. "'Bazaars,' from the Persian word 'bāzār,' are places where you not only exchange goods and services, but also experiences. Bazaars are sites where culture is created, remixed, and dispersed.” In short, the project takes its cue from (and emulates) the logic of the bazaar.
Artists and inventors of all practices are invited to create accounts and engage with fellow users in an international ecosystem, where work is presented, exchanged, and supported in kind. According to Vasandani, the pair conducted "user-centered" research to ensure that the platform supports their community-first approach. "Of course, A1 is something that we know will make it to market because we’re creating it with our community in mind,” Kalawar noted.
Vasandani and Kalawar describe the project as serving dual purposes: First, to offer South Asian creatives a public forum designed by and for them; and second, to open up the dialogue, which they hope will complicate and change the prevailing (and often times harmful) popular narratives that describe South Asian experiences.
With a soft-launch around the bend in January, along with a series of programs throughout the year, NEW INC invited A1BAZAAR to discuss their work in deeper detail. From the premium they place on community, to their future ambitions, read up on the project in our interview below.
Read the full interview on NEW INC STREAM.