Holi celebrations in JNU
Seven Months At Jawaharlal Nehru UniversityText Sarojini Lewis
I met my current class mate and good friend Parul in 2012 at an artist-in-residency in Medellin, Colombia, where we both exhibited our art in ceramics, photography and writing. Parul had informed me about the MPhil in visual arts at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University). She was applying herself and helped me to hand in my application in Delhi. Three years later, we both got selected to the university’s School of Arts and Aesthetics.


We are now part of a class of 14 people in the programme (incidentally, I am the first Dutch student to receive a scholarship from the Indian Council of Cultural Relations). I believe this is the best such programme in India. In fact I don’t think that I could have found another place in the world where the faculty’s knowledge of the subject is as high as at SAA (School of Arts and Aesthetics). The lectures are unique. All the professors are experienced and well regarded; they work internationally and are known for their published books and exhibitions.

A friend of the author at the School of Arts and Aesthetics


Though I am a Dutch national, I have Indian roots. My research project is on my own migration roots and family history and it started with the Goethe Institut in 2015. In the background of this personal narrative arises the larger picture of migrational processes and routes between four continents, spanning four generations. It is set in the rich shared history and heritage of India and the Netherlands. Since I study migration from India to Suriname and the visual presentation of this in photographs and objects, it is relevant for me to be in India and study here. I believe that further investigation into this history and heritage along the lines of my personal narrative will be a contribution to the bilateral relations between the two countries.


A day at the university starts with morning classes in several subjects. This semester we had classes by Raqs Media Collective, a well known curator's collective that has been showing its work in the Venice Biennale. As a student, to be able to communicate with professionals who are active in practical fine arts is a good chance to learn new things. I am also happy with the classes regarding research methodology and art modernism on a global scale. The classes here are taught from
a global perspective, which is different from my education in Europe. In the Netherlands, the lectures were built around European art history. Much

Art in the kitchen (the author is on the right)

as I enjoyed absorbing the ideas of ancient Greek and Roman culture—important for Dutch art history—the JNU lectures open up my mind to fine art on a global scale.


A great luxury here is the freedom to enter the building anytime, 24 hours a day, meet in the class rooms and use the projectors. No wonder then that, beyond classes, a day in JNU could very well end with watching a horror movie with class mates in one of the class rooms!
I recently turned 32 and wanted to celebrate my birthday at the SAA, since for me it's the most comfortable place to hang out with fellow students. My class mates were there, and Lele, the other international student besides me (from China) in our class, brought me a birthday cake with my name on it and three roses coloured pink, red and yellow. I feel at home in the campus and love to watch the sun go down sipping fresh orange juice at Mammu dhaba (a popular campus eatery). At JNU , even if I am out late, there is always the possibility of getting fresh steamed momos (dumplings) round the clock.

Taekwondo classes are held every day on campus and I attend them once or twice a week. JNU means a lot to me. The whole university is surrounded by beautiful nature and animals. Walking in JNU , amidst vibrantly coloured flowers and the sound of rare birds and peacocks, is a delightful experience. Nilgai, a wild antelope, are regular visitors on campus. They have a habit of appearing out of the blue. Olga, a JNU student from Russia, told me there are snakes on the campus. One of her friends almost fainted when she saw a big black snake crawling around on the pavement! One night, I hope to see one too.

A nilgai forages on the campus


At a later date, it is my intention to organise an exhibition called ‘Hidden Trace’ which will feature Indian and Dutch artists from various backgrounds. The exhibition will show work made by artists based in Delhi, Pune, Den Haag, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. It will include performing arts, print-making, drawing, painting and photography.

A cosy meal in the university with fellow students