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Radhika Ganesh: International Future Leaders Program

Jan 15, 2020

Radhika Ganesh is a socio-cultural activist with over eight years of experience working in the grassroots on various cultural rights based issues. 



What attracted you to the Leadership Program?

As a socio-cultural activist in India today, a safe space to meet, interact and exchange ideas with like-minded people is the one thing I crave most. As the fear of cultural homogenisation inched in on me, my eagerness to apply to such a program was heightened. I believe the attraction is the opportunity to meet arts leaders who are persisting beyond all kinds of difficulties, learn from one another and express solidarity. And of course, the opportunity to do all this in Australia, a country that is showing the world it is never too late to work towards preserving cultural diversity is an added excitement!

Why do you think it is important to develop Arts Leaders?

I strongly believe no civilization can live sans arts, but it is often that societies forget what it means to provide a conducive environment for those arts to grow and thrive. In such times, individuals; practitioners and activists become life rafts upon which arts are preserved and nurtured until society is tempered enough to co-opt them back as their own.

I see arts and culture leaders as custodians of the soul of a society. They will work to preserve things that are beautiful even when times are bleak, and act as catalysts for peace and harmony. They will nurture creativity and peruse creation, so that future generations can consume and enjoy histories that will shape their lives.

Are there ideas around leadership that need to change for our sector to thrive? Are the current notions of leadership still relevant?

Leadership has to be a fine balancing act between lessons learnt from methods of the past and innovation that can adapt to future times and socio-political context. There have so far been many who have nurtured the sector with great passion, however with changing times, adaptability with a keen sense of reasoning is of great essence.

If leadership today is about creation and preservation, in the near future it will have to also be about outreach to showcase pluralism. With politics across continents sparking cultural prisonisation it will become imperative for arts leadership to focus on de-stigmatisation of cultural and arts practices and work towards bridging the gap between what is perceived as mainstream and the margins.

What are the top three qualities of leaders that inspire you?

Acceptance, adaptability and generosity.


Radhika Ganesh is a socio-cultural activist with over eight years of experience working in the grassroots on various cultural rights based issues.

After spending close to 4 years in Rajasthan working with a farmers and peasants rights movement, in 2016, she conceptualised and initiated Ek Potlee Ret Ki (Kaani Nilam – in Tamil), a collective to work with cultural identities and the need to expand peoples’ political action and advocacy to preserve diversity. The collective began its journey by identifying, studying and documenting indigenous, nomadic & semi-nomadic, occupational and hereditary arts communities to develop a robust understanding of cultural identities and their socio-political contexts.

Allowing Ek Potlee Ret Ki’s work to organically develop through community engagement, she travelled to several states including Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, engaging with some of India’s most marginalised communities before returning home to Tamil Nadu in January 2018.

Radhika’s strength in developing working relationships with the bureaucracy help in furthering advocacy efforts and policy interventions with States and Central Government. One of her flagship initiatives with the administrations in Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan has been to launch a one-of-a-kind socio-cultural geographical mapping of artist and artisanal communities, which she believes will help with targeted, need-based intervention and policy development.

Learn more about the 2020 Leadership Program participants.