South Asian Women’s Creative Collective Records

Date Range: 19972009
Survey Conducted: Tue, 2009-11-10
Creator: South Asian Women’s Creative Collective

History: In 1997, Jaishri Abichandani founded the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective (SAWCC) to foster a sense of community among South Asian women artists and creative professionals in New York City. Fourteen women, who were invited through community-based organizations such as Sakhi for South Asian Women and the South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association (SALGA), attended SAWCC’s first meeting in the offices of the Sister Fund. In March 1998, the collective held its first annual fundraiser and art show, “Karma Kollage,” which drew a crowd of over 300. Soon, SAWCC, the only New York–based South Asian arts organization at the time, began meeting monthly at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, providing a space for members to collaborate, network, share their work, and gain exposure.

In 1999, SAWCC formed a volunteer board and became incorporated as a non-profit organization. The following year, the organization established a community bulletin board—a virtual, non-patriarchal space where members could post calls for submissions and collaboration, job opportunities, event announcements, and engage in discussion. With over 1,100 active members on its listserv, SAWCC has helped to establish an extensive network of South Asian women visual artists, writers, dancers, filmmakers, and theater artists and has served as an important resource for both professional and emerging artists.

SAWCC’s programming efforts now include: an annual visual arts exhibition, which has included artists such as Chitra Ganesh, Swati Khurana, and Sa’dia Rehman; an annual literary festival, which has featured writers including Minal Hajratwala, V.V. Ganeshananthan, and Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Jhumpa Lahiri; a writing workshop, Brown Eyed Girls; a studio circle of visual artists; and a series of monthly panel discussions and events featuring emerging artists. While serving as a space for South Asian women artists to showcase their work, identify resources, and seek support, SAWCC has become known for presenting cutting-edge work that engages with themes of gender and cultural representation, and has collaborated with other arts organizations including 3rd I South Asian Independent Film, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and Pratt Institute.

Sources: South Asian Women’s Creative Collective, “History-South Asian Women’s Creative Collective.” Accessed February 4, 2015. http://sawcc.org.

Melwani, Lavina. “Protecting Their True Voice: South Asian Women’s Creative Collective is a friend of artists.” Chowk. August 20, 2003.

Melwani, Lavina. “The Unsuitable Girls Grow Up: But are they as subversive as ever?” Little India, October 3, 2007.

Heller, Maxwell. “Tracks: Sultana’s Dream and the SAWCC.” Brooklyn Rail, September 2007. Accessed February 4, 2015. http://www.brooklynrail.org/2007/09/art/sultana.

“A Grassroots Sisterhood.” ArtIndia, December 2008.

Summary: The South Asian Women’s Creative Collective Records total 11 linear feet and documents the organization’s programmatic efforts, fundraising campaigns, board meetings, and publicity coverage. The records also include art produced and books authored by diasporic South Asian women visual artists and writers.

Consisting of approximately 1.0 linear foot are fundraising files from 1997–2004, flyers advertising monthly meetings (which ceased in 2008), biographies of artists who presented at monthly meetings, press files, copies of SAWCC newsletters, board information and agendas, event files, and promotional materials.

SAWCC’s “Living Archive,” which is accessible to the public, comprises about 1.5 linear feet, and includes artist statements, resumes, slides, VHS tapes, and DVDs from South Asian women artists including Lida Abdullah, Siona Benjamin, and Mariam Ghani.

Approximately 7.5 linear feet, a significant portion of the collection, documents SAWCC’s various public events. Included are 1.5 linear feet of posters and exhibition catalogs from “(Un)Suitable Girls” (2000), which challenged the commodification of women and their bodies. Promotional postcards from the shows “Territories” (2004), “Electric Ladyland” (2007), “Rods and Cones: Seeing from the Back of One’s Head” (2008), among others; catalogs from visual arts shows, including the 10th anniversary visual arts exhibition “Sultana’s Dream” (2007); and bookmarks, event flyers (1999–2009), and programs from several other events and festivals are also included. There are also 1.5 linear feet of event recordings on VHS, mini-DV tapes, and mini-disks.

What started as a “leave a book, take a book” program has developed into a small, but unique library, which encompasses 1.25 linear feet. Some of titles are out of print or rare and include Shashi Tharoor’s Riot, Amrita Pritam’s The Other Dimension, Attila Hosain’s Sunlight on a Broken Column, Blood into Ink: South Asian and Middle Eastern Women Write War edited by Miriam Cooke and Roshni Rustomji-Kerns, and bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress.

Press clippings (1997–2000) from the New York Times, Village Voice, India in NY, News-India Times, and Little India along with a set of press kits comprises 0.25 linear feet.

Total Size: 11 linear feet, 6 drawers; 2 boxes
APA-related Size: 11 linear feet, 6 drawers; 2 boxes
Languages of materials: English
Arrangement: other
Location: South Asian Women’s Creative Collective offices
Bibliographic Control: inventory
Conditions Governing Access: Available by appointment only. Researchers wishing to view “Living Archive” materials should contact SAWCC at info@sawcc.org

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