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March 7, 2013
Updated March 16, 2013
Having grown up amid the challenges of poverty and violence that affect the people of Kashmir every day, Northwest Missouri State University student Adil Abbas Sheikh is leading a movement toward peace in his homeland – through art.
Sheikh and art students at Northwest Missouri State University again showcased their collaboration with a contingent of overseas peers this spring during Kashmir Crossover II, an exhibit March 11-15 in the Olive DeLuce Gallery. Students celebrated the exhibit with the public during a reception March 14 that included a lecture featuring the artists.
The mixed media exhibit included photographs, ceramics and paintings, along with photos projected onto the gallery walls of artwork produced by art students at the University of Kashmir in Srinagar, Kashmir, located in South Asia. Photos of the artwork also are displayed on the Kashmir Crossover website.
The Kashmir Crossover, a consortium of Northwest and Kashmiri students, formed during the fall of 2011 when Sheikh, a Kashmiri student who is working toward his Master of Business Administration at Northwest, brought the idea of a collaborative project to Northwest’s honorary art fraternity, Kappa Pi.
“What we are trying to do is we are trying to give a platform to every artist, irrespective of what media they produce,” Sheikh said.
This year, a total of about 50 students on both sides of the globe have continued the collaboration through email, social media, Skype and other electronic means to become acquainted with one another’s artwork, cultures and lives.
“We see it as a continuing process and now the artists of Kashmir are in touch on Facebook and other sources, and they keep exchanging,” Sheikh said. “They upload artworks and people from here ‘like’ it. It’s a regular exchange, and it will continue even when I graduate. Now Kashmir Crossover is not happening because of me; it’s happening because of the connections the students made from Northwest and from Kashmir with each other.”
As part of the collaborative, Northwest students set out to raise funds for Kashmiri art students. Poverty has had such an impact in that region that students can’t afford school tuition or even basic art supplies. Last year’s effort raised about $700, which was enough to pay for art supplies and a full year’s tuition to the Kashmir Art School for three students.
Northwest art students have committed to the cause again this year by selling their handmade hats, bowls, bookmarks and greeting cards in Northwest’s J.W. Jones Student Union and at other events to raise money.
“The response we got last year was tremendous,” said Sheikh, who returned to his homeland last summer and personally awarded the scholarships. “I was there and I could see on their faces the happiness they had, and they sent thank yous to the students of Northwest and the people who helped us.”
Kashmir has been affected by a conflict dating back to Britain’s withdrawal from the Indian subcontinent in 1947, which created India and Pakistan as independent states. Autonomous states such as Kashmir, however, were allowed to choose their allegiance and Kashmir’s ruler chose to side with India, going against Kashmir’s Muslim majority. Most Kashmiris living in the region today have grown up around Pakistani and Kashmiri militants and Indian forces fighting in the streets.
Sheikh calls himself “a conflict child” and says the unrest has deeply influenced Kashmiri artwork.
“It isn’t as easy as it is here,” he said. “It’s very difficult – much more difficult than we understand here.”
Sheikh, however, has made the most of opportunities afforded to him. Following in the footsteps of his father, who earned his doctorate in Germany and is now a professor at the University of Kashmir, Sheikh has sought to travel, explore and experience other cultures. After completing his degree at Northwest this spring, he plans to return to Kashmir as an entrepreneur and continue working toward peace.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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