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What is a thek? Simply put, it’s a joint (though not the kind you may have smoked in college!!), a place where like-minded people informally get together for a common purpose. The purpose can be a questionable one, such as drinking, drug use or gambling; or it can be a benign form of socialization. Thek has been a common term in the street parlance of Bengali culture since around the 1970s, when my generation came of age. While I’m not absolutely sure about the provenance of the word, it’s possible that it came from the Hindi word “theka”, meaning a place to halt or rest.

Needless to say, it is the socialization aspect of thek that is at the core of this site; and in this context, it is integral to another word: adda. Unlike thek, adda is a uniquely Bengali concept (why this is so is a matter of a complex anthropological inquiry, beyond the purview of this introduction). Not precisely translatable, it loosely signifies a kind of informal chit-chat. An adda has no predetermined topics, no apparent logic of progression, purpose or time limit; conversations change course arbitrarily, seemingly unrelated topics come and go and time seems to halt in a perpetual present. Often sporadic, adda can happen virtually at any place; but if the same individuals frequent a specific place with some regularity (everyday, every weekend, once in a while) for adda, then that place qualifies as a thek. In short, a thek is a recognized venue for adda. It can be a bar, a clubhouse, a living-room, a porch, even a street-corner; but most preferably, it’s a tea-stall or a coffee-house, primarily because tea or coffee (along with cigarettes, for some) is indispensable for most addas. Especially prevalent among Bengali youth, the practice of adda isn’t age-specific, though it is common for the patrons of a thek to belong to a particular age-group.   

What does one achieve from going to a thek for adda? Except that it helps one to relax (which is an overused argument, anyway), I don’t believe any Bengali knows a reasonable answer to this question; yet most would instinctively accept an invitation to an adda. Too much investment in adda is often criticized as unproductive idling, which it indeed is. And yet, historically, immensely productive adda isn’t an oxymoron at all. The famous thek of the Calcutta Coffee House on Kolkata’s College Street is a case in point. Writers, artists, filmmakers, activists (especially of the leftist ilk) and the like have gathered there for generations, and some of the most notable contributions in those fields have germinated in the vibrant exchanges, discussions and debates held there day after day, for years. Therefore, no matter how bizarre it sounds, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that adda is a crucial component of Bengali cultural discourse.

In light of this discursive role of adda, its gender dynamic at an outdoor thek must be mentioned. Until the last decade or two, with the exception of a handful of venues like the Calcutta Coffee House and college cafeterias (called “canteens’ in India), an outdoor thek had been frequented almost exclusively by males. When my generation was young, for a young female to sit in a roadside tea-stall and chat with her male friends was to raise a whole lot of eyebrows. Those days are all but hazy memories, at least in a big city like Kolkata, and that’s good news indeed.

I have lived abroad since the late 1980s, but have always resumed adda at familiar as well as new theks on my repeated visits to Kolkata. Therefore, soon after I considered having my own space on the Internet, the concept of thek provided the primary impetus to make my space both personal and public. So here it is. Grounded in a bit of nostalgia, this site is a virtual thek devoted to adda on visual culture. Yet it differs from the conventional thek because it has a sense of purpose: it aspires to promote critical understanding of visual culture. I envisage it as a productive platform where artists, art writers and the like anywhere on the planet can make new contacts and share a diverse range of ideas.

One part of the site has my personal stuff: my essays and other writings, images, and blog; while the other part is open to friends, acquaintances, even strangers. Artists are invited to offer their images for display in the “Gallery”, along with their vitae and contact information. They can also advertise their exhibitions or other efforts in the “News” section. All this is completely free of charge (though, if participation swells in the future, the site’s maintenance may require a nominal one-time uploading fee, just like people at an adda often chip in for tea or snacks). Any party interested in someone’s art should contact the artist directly, since I am not interested in financially profiting from such transactions (this policy will never change). Art writers are welcome to contribute essays and reports, and anyone is free to propose topics to the “Forum” for fruitful dialogs. And of course, all are expected to provide feedback on my ongoing effort to upgrade and improve the site. At the moment, it can be regarded as a social networking site only in a severely limited sense, as there are obvious constraints of its technology and specificity of its purpose. Only time will tell how it evolves.

 So, welcome to globalthek!

Sunanda K Sanyal





Art and the
“Global” Factor

    An Unexplored Discourse in Kolkata’s Visual Culture
In its vibrancy, variety, and opulence, Durga Pujo is indeed comparable to such grand spectacles as the Carnival of Brazil. Yet unlike the Brazilian event, which has been closely examined by chroniclers of visual culture, ... [..more]
  From Object to Experience: Notes on American Sculptur
To put it rather bluntly, it is impossible to write an exclusive history of modern sculpture... sculpture of the last century has been more consistently engaged in self-deconstruction, ... [..more]
  Scandalous Art and the “Global” Factor
One often hears these days that Indian art has “gone global”. Indeed, for those of us who were adults in India during the 1970s and 1980s, living with dead telephones, state-run television and neighborhood mom-and-pop stores is now..       [..more]

in the

    Kolkata’s Contemporary Art : A Look in the Mirror
A couple of years ago, during one of my frequent visits to Kolkata, a well-known artists’ group in the city invited me to one of its weekly meetings. I was requested to propose a topic for discussion, so I suggested a conversation about the lack of experimental drive in Kolkata’s contemporary art...               [..more]
  Installation in Perspective: Two Outdoor Projects
During conversations about installation, I have often heard Indian artists insist that the West has, only in the recent decades, merely intellectualized something that has been part of the Indian heritage for centuries. As with all nativistic gestures, such claim demonstrates an erroneous...         [..more]
  Critical Perspectives on Photograph(y)
Back in the 1980s, the photo historian Abigail Solomon-Godeau concluded her insightful essay on art photography with a poignant observation that left many photographers uncomfortable, even irate. Art photography, she wrote, “has systematically engineered its own irrelevance and triviality...        [..more]
    Sex, Culture and Otherness  Two (W)edges in Kolkata’s Art
“Avant-garde” is the name attributed to a progressive leadership in the history of modern art. Taken from French military terminology, it was understood for a century to signify the creative pursuits of several generations of Western artists --typically from Manet and Courbet in France to Pollock and Rothko in America-- that broke with the Renaissance legacy.. [..more]
  A Majestic “Africa”: El Anatsui’s Wall Hangings
Displacement of objecthood has been one of the primary attributes of much of modern art in the latter half of the twentieth century. From the emergence of environments, installation and happenings in the 1960s, to earth art, conceptual art, and performance art of the subsequent decades, ..
  Writing as Transgression: Two Decades of Graffiti in New York City Subways
Of all the genres invented in the history of modern art, “protest art” is one of the broadest and most open-ended, not least because it encompasses a wide variety of forms, materials, processes and aesthetics. If Picasso’s Guernica shares this rubric with anti-apartheid posters from South Africa, then the definitions of the..     [..more]

Art History

    Teaching Art History at an Art School: Making Sense from the Margin
What made me decide to contribute to this volume of essays was a feeling of exclusion, so to speak. While the literature on the scholarship of pedagogy and the NECIT seminars indeed resonate with many of my concerns as a person of foreign origin in American academe, none of the speakers.. [..more]
  ● Medi(t)ations of a Decentered Self  The Art of Jayanta Roy
A large canvas is wrapped in taped newspaper sheets; Barack Obama and Paris Hilton peek out from speech bubbles; cartoon clips and Sharukh Khan appear in broken eye-glasses; two pairs of conjoined, attired legs engage in yoga positions; a headless zebra stands on a wavy checkered floor; a shadow/silhouette.. [..more]
 Picturing Maladies   The Art of Subhadarshini Singh
Subhadarshini Singh’s art is deeply involved with the subject of medicine, both modern and ancient, Indian and Western. A legacy of her experience as a medical journalist, it is unambiguously central to her creative enterprise. What interests me, however, is not so much the subject itself, nor the artist’s strong passion for it, but the larger question – ..[..more]

কিশোর সাহিত্য..
'চাঁদের পাহাড়'



     Subir Hati’s Painted Prisms
In the 21st century, the question of any new contributions from abstract art is a complicated matter, for the Modernist baggage it carries can hardly be justified any more. And because of the curious mix of utopia and reason that once informed its rhetoric, the problem is more acute for..   [..more]
  ● কিশোর সাহিত্য নিয়ে কিছু কথোপকথনের শুরুঃ বিভূতিভূষণের 'চাঁদের পাহাড়'
বাংলা সাহিত্য সমালোচনায় কিশোর সাহিত্যের কোন জায়গা নেই বললেই চলে। যেহেতু বড়রাই ছোটদের জন্য লেখেন, তাই তাঁদের প্রজন্মের কোন মূল্যবোধ পড়ুয়াদের মনে কতটা ছাপ ফেলেছে সে প্রশ্ন স্বাভাবিকই শুধু নয়, উঠতি মনের ওপর টেলিভিশন বা সিনেমার প্রভাবের মতই..  [..আরও] 
“Being Modern”: Identity Debates and Makerere’s Art School in the 1960s

Ulrich Middeldorf was a historian of Renaissance art. A student of the legendary Heinrich Wölfflin, he headed the Art Department of the University of Chicago. On 16 May 1950, he wrote a letter to his contact at Uganda’s Makerere.. [..more]

Critiquing the Critique


‘Global’: A View from..

    Critiquing the Critique: El Anatsui and the Politics of Inclusion
Wifredo Lam (1902-1982) was a Cuban artist of mixed race. In the 1980s, his painting Jungle (1943) hung near the coatroom in the first floor lobby of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, prompting the poet and critic John Yau to sharply criticize the museum’s influential curator William Rubin (Yau 1990). As a custodian of modernism, .. [..more]
‘Global’: A View from the Margin

There is no question that for contemporary artists of non-Western origin, the doors to international art scenes, barely ajar in the late 1980s, have opened wider, with increasing access to an inter-continental art market and blockbuster exhibitions. What is more, in the absence of any dominant paradigm in the contemporary discourse of art, critics like Terry Smith, .. [..more]
  Amrit: A Poetic Meta-Exhibition    (New)

Four white horses stand atop

tall columns, surveilled by a series of watchful painted eyes; two bowl-like objects rest on a padded bench; a two-part slab with its own ocular sits on a tall wooden stool; seven white horses, standing in a row on a horizontal metal beam, confront a dark painted surface; dense, .. [..more]


  In Conversation with Kanishka Raja
Originally from Kolkata, Kanishka Raja now lives and works in New York. For more than a decade, his large, hybrid painting installations --employing such diverse pictorial devices as Indian textile, linguistic and miniature motifs; drastic perspectives; pop imagery and surrealistic juxtapositions-- have received a fair amount of critical acclaim. I sat down with this ambitious artist in his Brooklyn studio to talk about his art training, life in New York, and his views of contemporary art. [..more]
  Talking to Annu P. Matthew
Annu Palakunnathu Matthew’s work is firmly grounded in cross-cultural experience. Professor of Photography at the University of Rhode Island, she appropriates images from diverse sources and juxtaposes them to make incisive comments about displacement, family, social inequities, and cultural memory. I chatted with her at her Providence home about her background, artistic strategies, and her life between/across cultures.  
   In Conversation with Sarina Khan Reddy
Born of an Indian father and a white American mother, Sarina Khan Reddy is a new face of the South Asian immigrant culture in the United States. Her new media work intensely scrutinizes, among other things, the hegemonic underpinnings of American world view. I met with Sarina at a café in Newburyport, Massachusetts, to talk about her life and the sharp political edge that defines her art.                       [..more]

Essays & Reports


Essays & Reports



Criticality in painting developed in such a way as to determine the intentionality of the artist, the formal handling of medium in relation to the work, and the intrinsic individuality that resulted from a fusion of the two.
Representational Painting After Richter : Critical Issues By Robert Sullivan    [..more]


When you are all but convinced that art these days does little more than serve self-promotion and the market, someone comes along to show that all is not lost, that art can still make a difference. It happens rarely, but when it does, you have to salute that artist. Rituparno Ghosh, the first openly gay and transsexual Bengali filmmaker and actor, ...
Rituparno Ghosh by The Critical Tourist

The documentary examines specific aspects of the visual culture of Durga Pujo, a grand religio-cultural festival held in Bengal, India. Locally, it is seen as the occasion of the Hindu Goddess Durga’s annual visit to her parental home. Central to the rituals is a sculptural image of the Goddess killing Mahisasura, or the buffalo-demon. This mythic event is considered a symbol of the eternal battle between Good and Evil, and of female empowerment.
“A Homecoming Spectacle” (58 mins. & 28 mins.)





Artists in the Gallery

  My work is made up of a personal vocabulary of marks, which are loosely based on the constantly evolving urban landscape. For years, I looked to nature for inspiration-- trees, clouds, and leaves, and edited out the rest..
Mary Crenshaw
One frequently hears that it is futile to search for meaning in art. Since the end of my art training, I have been exploring various avenues to test the validity of this view. I have discovered that my creative endeavor is..
Sanjoy Chatterjee
My art mostly reflects social issues that matter to me. I also love nature and its colors. With vibrant colors, my work frequently celebrates nature and its beauty. Many of them also have geometric patterns or mathematical..
Urmi Ghosh-Dastidar
  Intrigued by the formal boundaries of painting as they relate to objects and architecture, I use materials, space, color and geometry to study the limits of these boundaries. Through the Modernist tradition, painting has been preoccupied with pictorial illusionistic space..
Liselott Johnsson
  Secondhand images filtered through the media now exert a powerful influence on our perception of reality, making reality itself artificial. The distinctions between model and copy, mediated experience and tangible reality are all but blurred..
Jayanta Roy
  Appropriating a variety of familiar motif and themes from both Indian and Western pictorial tradition, I re-contextualize them in the light of contemporary issues. I deliberately combine icons of “High” art and those of mass culture with wit and irony to redefine their role..
Meenakshi Sengupta








In the Name of the Goddess

The Durga Pujas of Contemporary Kolkata
Tapati Guha-Thakurta

he book’s central concern lies in conceptualizing a specically contemporary and artistic history of the urban festival. In keeping with its title, the book examines the diversity of images and practices—from the consumerist spectacle and the bonanza of awards to the efflorescene of public installations and art and craft productions—that unfurls in this season ‘in the name of the goddess’.      [..more]

Tapati Guha-Thakurta is Professor in History and currently the Director of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC).

In the Name of the Goddess
The Durga Pujas of Contemporary Kolkata
by Tapati Guha-Thakurta.

408 pp.  Imperial   8vo   Hardback ISBN: 978-93-84082-46-8 Rs. 5500

Ganesh Pyne

Ganesh Pyne, the famed contemporary Indian painter
spent all his life in the city that so enchanted him. He is widely acknowledged as a
leading second-generation Indian modernist. Succeeding the early pioneers, such as M.F. Husain and F.N. Souza, his cohort was the first to be trained in post-independence India...The critical discourse of modern Indian art is only beginning to understand the complexity and multivalence of Ganesh Pyne’s creative contributions. [..more]

Imagi(ni)ng India

Imagi(ni)ng India
Paintings and Videos by Kathryn Myers,
Curated by Sunanda K Sanyal in 2013,
at Main Gallery,
Lesley University, College of Arts.. [..view]

Wordpress Blog:

Globalthek Blog:

dda is arguably a crucial component of Bengali cultural discourse. It loosely translates as a kind of informal chit-chat. A thek is a recognized venue for adda..this site is a virtual thek. One part of the site has Sunanda K Sanyal’s personal stuff: essays, images, and blog..

Let us be proud as Indians!

(I have a policy that this site will only cover issues related to art and visual culture, which is why I do not comment on a lot of other things happening around us. Today, however, is an exception. After fighting for her life for almost two weeks, the 23-year-old victim of the brutal gang rape and assault in New Delhi has died. So yes, today is an exception indeed).  

We, the Indian public, who have been on the street with passionate cries for the heads of the six perpetrators, now can have our wish fulfilled, for now it has turned into a murder case. In this context, we hardly find relevant any class issue (any possibility, for instance, that our zeal in this matter is implicitly fueled by their disempowered class status;..


The cartoon controversies in India:

Democracy comes with its tests, some of which every democratic nation inevitably flunks. In fact, there hasn’t been any nation in the history of democracy that has passed all the tests all the time. And needless to say, a regime always finds ways to justify its anti-democratic actions, no matter how ridiculous its arguments. But what’s been happening in India (at least technically the largest democracy on the planet) with regard to free speech is way beyond poor test performance; it’s a travesty, pure and simple—and one of the stupidest kinds. I’m particularly interested in the crackdown on certain political cartoonists..


Liselott Johnsson

During a recent visit to MOMA hundreds of people flocked in the gallery devoted to Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. A few were watching the painting, while most were chatting, taking pictures, texting, and browsing their ipads. Due to the high volume of voices and the partial views of the painting, it was impossible to experience this masterpiece as anything else than a wall covering. Personally, I cherish my distant memories.. [..more]



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Adda is arguably a crucial component of Bengali cultural discourse. It loosely translates as a kind of informal chit-chat. A thek is a recognized venue for adda..this site is a virtualthek. One part of the site has Sunanda K Sanyal’s personal stuff: essays, images, and blog..    |   Kolkata, India / Boston, USA   |   Contact:    |   ©2017   All rights reserved.  2