ART has long connected us to one another and been used to strengthen communities across cultures and the globe.

As, Alberto Ibargüen, the president of  Knight Foundation explained at a 2018 symposium on philanthropy, culture and the arts: “Art binds. Culture generates social capital and strengthens a community’s character. Art brings people together physically – at galleries, museums, performance spaces – and culturally, through its capacity to tell a community’s shared story, to inspire reflection and form connections that transcend differences.”

Along those lines, The Pind Collective, “a collaborative art space that seeks to bring together young artists from India and Pakistan”, is embracing this mindset to bridge the vast historical divide between the two countries, in an effort for these collaborative art pieces to unite and inspire.

We’re happy to report that art and its ability to connect people across cultures and societies aren’t limited to these traditional mediums. It is rapidly evolving alongside technology – visual and performance arts aren’t just being shared in museums or local communities anymore.

The connectivity of our digital world is bringing together people, and a constantly evolving understanding of “art”, virtually.

Using social media, the web, and his Hindustan Times column, Mayank Austen Soofi, thedelhiwalla, uses pictures and poetic prose to narrate a collection of oral histories he has gathered from those who are frequently overlooked in society. Just a glimpse at his Instagram reflects how his art is changing viewers’ perceptions – and closing the gap between Indians and Pakistanis through this virtual medium.

Begun by two university students from Ludhiana, Punjab and Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Bolti Khidki, a digital storytelling community, started as a Facebook page. In 2018 it morphed into The Speaking Window, a curated literary work which “holds out hope of a better tomorrow by shining light on the terrors of the past” with the wish that these “stories of trials and tribulations will encourage greater compassion among people across borders”.

And it’s not just the visual arts striving for this connection. Food as art has moved beyond its portrayal in traditional art and cookbooks to Instagram and other platforms where food culture has developed into a medium in its own right.

Sarhad, a dhaba at the India-Pakistan border, is using food in combination with visual arts to build an understanding of “the Pakistanis on the other side of the border fence” and unite a divided region. The menu reflects the traditional cuisines from both Lahore and Amritsar as well as artwork and décor inspired by both Pakistani and Indian architecture, artists, and fashion designers, with a focus on the region’s history.

Indian tourists, as well as the local community, many of whom struggle with addiction and face high unemployment rates, are connecting with their neighbours’ culture, normally overlooked in this highly politicised border area and highlighted for its disputes rather than its inclusivity.

While experimenting with recipes for his menu, Mohammad Jabir of Mumbai’s Radio Restaurant, came upon a creative way to bridge the gap between his Indian customers with our neighbours to the north with his colourful rendition of “India-Pakistan biryani”.

Understanding that “everyone loves food – no matter what country they belong to” and that food unifies us – he hopes that his dish symbolises his hope for a lasting peace as he serves everyone, regardless of country, caste, creed, or belief.

Even jalebis and samosas are at work strengthening relations across our eastern border with Bhutan!

Dantak canteens in Bhutan, originally established to provide food for the Armed Forces, Indian labour force, and Border Roads Organisation staff, are much loved by the Bhutanese for their longstanding (nearly 60 years!) tradition of providing hot snacks and tea. An army official reported, “Project Dantak has been a household name in Bhutan and has helped strengthen good relations with our neighbour”.

Are you a food enthusiast? How could you connect your love for food to a social cause?

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