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U.S. Museum Is Dilemma Over Portraying Indians In The U.S. Email this page
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BANGALORE: Indian-Americans have won quite a few hearts for their brave achievements in science and have swept 11 of the last 15 national spelling bees competitions. But, the intense debate among Indian-American groups whether to showcase success stories or their struggles have raised a few eyebrows for the event organizers, reports the Times of India.
The heated debate came to limelight when Smithsonian came up with the exhibition ‘Beyond Bollywood’ in the U.S. national complex of museums, which portrays the Indian-American experience for the first time in the history. The organizers of the event faced a tough time and were put under the hammer with few tough questions about how they can portray a diverse and occasionally challenging community of nearly three million people. Masum Momaya, the event curator, who was completely involved in setting up this wonderful exhibition for the public, was taken a back with this intensified debate that heated up among the Indian-Americans.

Momaya said, "I think that, throughout, there was this seesaw in the community with some people saying, 'No, take out anything that's related to achievement,' and others saying, 'There's so much stuff about discrimination; that seems so heavy and sad.”She further added, "It was definitely an ongoing tension and I think this will be reflected in people's reaction to it and live beyond the exhibition."

The heated debate was most often along the generational lines, with senior Indian-Americans were more eager to highlight some of the inspired achievements. Where in the younger Indian Americans had a different angle to the debate, with some just faulting the exhibition for other reasons.Momaya tried enough to balance the two sides but couldn’t succeed. She also made a brave decision to make the exhibition available to non-South Asian audiences who visit the museum quite often. The exhibition is also said to attract more than eight million guests a year. She further added that, "I didn't want this to be a ghettoized space in the museum where people say that this isn't about me or my community."

The exhibition named Beyond Bollywood--“Indian-Americans Shape the Nation," opened on February 27th at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington. The exhibition is designed to run for one year and later tour around the U.S. Exhibition that showcases personalities, struggles, and achievements including the trophy of the first Indian-American spelling bee champion in 1985 and a gown worn by U.S. first lady Michelle Obama that was designed by Indian-American Naeem Khan.

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