Category Archives: Exhibitions

Q&A: Indian American Tennis Champion Rajeev Ram

Rajeev Ram with his 2009 Hall of Fame Tennis Championships trophy.

Indian American tennis player Rajeev Ram visited Washington D.C. last week for the Citi Open tournament.  His trophy from the 2009 Hall of Fame Tennis Championships will be featured in the upcoming exhibition Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation.

Interview conducted by Summer 2013 intern Nimita Uberoi

Do you see yourself as a role model to young Indian American tennis players?

For sure, if there are young people who can take something from what I’ve done or if I can be helpful to them, I think that’s important.  Even if young people don’t end up playing professionally, but play in high school and college, it’s a great sport and great for learning life lessons.

Did you receive support from your parents for this non-conventional career?

My parents had an open mind, especially about me trying something different. This allowed me to pursue what I was good at and very passionate about. They pushed me to do as well as I could.  Their support has been the biggest key for me to be able to be on tour for 10 years.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?

Given that the level of the game is so high these days and the margins are so small, it’s a big challenge just to compete on a daily basis.  I’m always looking for ways to improve. Also, it’s not easy to travel as much as we do and be away from family and friends; it can get exhausting.

Rajeev Ram’s trophy, artifact image for the “Beyond Bollywood” exhibition. Photo by Sandra Vuong, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.

Have you ever faced any discrimination on tour?

I don’t personally feel like I’ve faced discrimination.  If anything, I’ve been lucky to get some support from fans in the United States as an American and from Indians in the United States and from India.  It’s an advantage to come from two places – I get double the support.

Do you have any advice for young people – athletes and otherwise?

It’s so important to have a passion, to enjoy it and be as good as you can at it.  To like something and do your best at it is very satisfying and fulfilling. Don’t just conform to what you think you are supposed to do; if you really do like something, it’s definitely possible to become really good at it, and then the sky’s the limit.

More about the author
A tennis player herself, APAC Summer 2013 intern Nimita Uberoi is a rising junior at Brown University studying Political Science and Environmental Studies.


Beyond Bollywood: 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions

Click to download PDF flyer

A Message from Curator Masum Momaya

Warm summer greetings! One year into my role as Curator of the Indian American Heritage Project and less than five months away from the opening of Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation exhibition, I wanted to share the five questions most frequently asked of me.

1. Will this exhibition contain art and artifacts from India?

Beyond Bollywood focuses on the experience of Indian immigrants and Indian Americans in the United States; all of the art and artifacts represent life here. The exhibition will contain art works by a dozen artists of Indian origin living and working here in America and artifacts which are significant to our history as Indian Americans, including the turban of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a doctor bag used by Abraham Verghese and the Olympic silver medal of Mohini Bhardwaj.

2. Is [fill in the name of a person] in the exhibition?

Maybe – but as part of a larger story of our communities.  I, as curator, have chosen to tell our larger story of the diverse contributions of Indian immigrants and Indian Americans to shaping American history – culturally, politically and professionally. Our contributions here are larger than any one individual, and I feel a responsibility to use the amazing platform that the Smithsonian is to tell this story in a nuanced, visually compelling way.

3. I have this precious and rare [fill in the name of an object] in my basement.  Can this be in the exhibition?

We are finished collecting items for the exhibition.  In fact, both the script and design for the exhibition are complete; all the components are being fabricated.  If you have something precious and rare that you would like the Smithsonian to consider including in its collection or future exhibitions, please email me at, and I will try to put you in touch with the appropriate person.

4. How much does the Indian American Heritage Project cost and who is paying for this?

The total cost of the Project’s Phase 1 (research, the exhibition, public programs, a traveling exhibition, a curriculum and a website) is $1 million.  The revenue sources for this Project are derived from a public-private partnership which includes a significant amount of leadership and support from the Smithsonian Institution.

Earlier this summer we announced there was $200,000 left to raise by the end of 2013.  Readers like you heard the call and we raised $99,000 or roughly 50% of our remaining goal.

Help us raise the last $101,000! Gifts of $2,500 and up made by September 30th will be recognized as Founder’s Circle Members. To make your tax-deductible gift, please visit:

5. What if I cannot come to Washington DC to see the exhibition?

Don’t worry!  In addition to showing at the Smithsonian, a version of Beyond Bollywood will be traveling around the country from 2015-2020, hopefully to your city.  If you would like more information or to help us identify a venue in your locality to host it, please email me at


Designing Beyond Bollywood

Beyond Bollywood postcards. Click to enlarge.

By Masum Momaya, Curator

As I write this, Smithsonian exhibition designers are putting the finishing touches on the gallery design for Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation.  Come December, the 5000-square-foot exhibition on the second floor of the National Museum of Natural History will be adorned with artifacts, images, and works of art showcasing Indian American history.  Contextualizing these items with visual elements to transform the gallery into an Indian American space has been a yearlong undertaking.

Last summer, I chose paint colors for the exhibition walls, deciding on marigold yellow, deep purple, and bright magenta to convey the vibrancy of material elements of Indian American culture, such as our garments and spices. Smithsonian designer Lynn Kawaratani and I visited an Indian clothing shop, grocery store, and my very own closet to identify visual elements to include in the gallery design. We photographed textile patterns, matched colors with a very large book of Pantone swatches, identified recurring motifs (such as paisleys), and chose the trusty, ever-present stainless steel thali as a frame to be used throughout the exhibition.

New York-based designer Minjal Dharia gave an Indian-inspired treatment to the exhibition title, which will be carried in all the exhibition text panels, and designed various postcards to help us spread the word using a few of photographer Preston Merchant’s images.  Recently, we put out a call to the community to collect both Indian and American shoes, many of which will grace the exhibition entrance.

Colors, patterns, motifs, fonts, and commonplace items such as the thali will merge to create the backdrop for  telling our history.  We look forward to sharing both the educational and aesthetic experience of Indian America with you later this year.

Click to enlarge and view more photos.


Donate Shoes to the “Beyond Bollywood” Exhibition

Donate a pair of shoes to the exhibition Beyond Bollywood: Indian American Shape the Nation.

Want to be part of Beyond Bollywood? Donate a pair of new or gently worn shoes. They can be for any season, style, age, and gender. But please do not mail us your shoes, first send us photos of the shoes to You will be contacted via email if your shoes are selected.

Please note that submissions are not guaranteed in the exhibition. There is no compensation for the donation and shoes will not be returned if they are chosen.


Call for Art Submissions

The Indian American Heritage Project of Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center is looking for artists to create works that use the visual of the H1-B visa as a motif or inspiration and comment upon the experience of temporary and tenuous immigration status for Indian immigrants in the United States. Themes such as migration, transnational identity, diaspora, economy, outsourcing and the role and reach of technology can also be explored.

Final works should be no larger than 6’ by 6’ and must mount on a gallery wall. All media are welcome, including:

  • Graphic Design
  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Printing
  • Collage
  • Photography
  • Mixed Media

Interested artists should submit a concept, including a detailed written description and sketches/images by midnight EST on Sunday, March 31, 2013 to Curator Masum Momaya at with the subject line “H1-B”.

Upon review of concept submissions by Smithsonian curatorial staff, a small number of artists will be asked to create the final work and submit digital representations of it by 5pm EST on Friday, May 31,2013.

Digital representations will be displayed by Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center in an online gallery, and the winning work will be featured in an upcoming exhibition, Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation at the National Museum of Natural History from December 2013 through January 2015.


Press Release: TV Asia Network Named Media Sponsor for Beyond Bollywood

Official Press Release

TV Asia Network Named Media Sponsor for Exhibit on Indian American History and Culture

TV Asia network has teamed up with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center as the media sponsor for the upcoming exhibition, “Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation.” This exhibition for the center will bring to life the rich history of immigrants from India and Indian Americans in the United States and detail their many contributions to America. Through a collection of photographs, artifacts, videos, interactive stations and stories, visitors will learn about the Indian American experience and the many dynamic roles they have played in shaping American society and culture.

“The Indian American story has yet to be fully told,” said Konrad Ng, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. “Visitors of all ages will leave the exhibition with a deeper understanding of this vibrant community as they strive to realize life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in America. This exhibition is about celebrating a community that embodies the American spirit.”

“Beyond Bollywood” is scheduled to open in late 2013, and it will occupy more than 5,000 square feet of space at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Over a two-year period the exhibition is expected to draw more than 7 million visitors before embarking on a national tour in 2015. “Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation” is the largest project undertaken by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center in its 15-year history, and the first to focus on Indian American culture.

“The success of this initiative relies greatly on our ability to engage the public in the months leading up to the exhibition opening,” said Ng. “By partnering with TV Asia, we have taken an important step in increasing the public’s knowledge and understanding of this exhibition.”

“Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation” is a project of monumental significance to our community and TV Asia,” said H.R. Shah, chairman and CEO of TV Asia. “As a media sponsor we are honored and excited to be a part of this program.”

TV Asia is celebrating its 20th year in United States with a headquarters in New Jersey, and it is a part of the growth of the Indian American community. The “Beyond Bollywood” exhibition supplements TV Asia’s mission to promote and celebrate the community and its achievements in the United States.

“There is still some public perception that we as Indian Americans are foreigners or outsiders in the United States,” said Masum Momaya, curator of the exhibition. “But history shows the opposite is true. We’ve been here since the earliest days of the nation and had our hands in building it to what it is today—politically, professionally and culturally. TV Asia connects to the Indian American community day in and day out.”

About Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

Established in 1997, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center produces programs and exhibitions about the Asian Pacific American experience and works in partnership with organizations across the Smithsonian and beyond to enrich collections and activities about the Asian Pacific American experience. It shares the challenges and stories of America’s fastest-growing communities. It connects treasures and scholars with the public, celebrates long-lived traditions and explores contemporary expressions. The stories it tells are vital to a deeper understanding of the nation and a richer appreciation of Asian Pacific cultures.

For information about the center, visit For general Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.

About TV Asia

TV Asia is an Edison, New Jersey based Pay TV Channel serving over South Asians across the United States and Canada on Dish Satellite & IPTV Platforms and on major Cable systems such as Time Warner, Comcast Xfinity, Cablevision, Cox, Charter, on Telco providers Verizon FIOS and AT&T U Verse and on Rogers Cable and Bell IPTV in Toronto Canada. TV Asia’s mission is to highlight South Asian Talent in the U.S. and Canada and promote our rich heritage in the arts, religion, sports and culture and inspire the current generation to uphold and carry forward the rich and ancient ideals of our glorious past. Visit for more information.


A Tour of Her Stories

By Masum Momaya, Indian American Heritage Project Curator

Masum Momaya (far left) presenting at Her Stories at the Queens Museum of Art, New York.

In my quest for visual art to incorporate in Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation, I traveled to the Queens Museum of Art in New York on Saturday. There, Curator Jaishri Abichandani gave me a tour of Her Stories, a group exhibition celebrating 15 years of work by the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective.  The exhibition includes paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture and video installations.

After the tour, I spoke on a panel featuring artists whose work appears in Her Stories, highlighting themes that cut across their creations and also emerge in Beyond Bollywood.  One includes taking a closer look at the objects, such as teacups, that we take for granted as part of our everyday lives but house complex stories of migration, identity and belonging.  Another involves invoking mythical and iconic South Asian female figures to explore and challenge gender stereotypes.

Seeing the visual art in person and conversing with the artists allowed me new insight into their work – and my own. I hope to feature a number of items I saw there in Beyond Bollywood, including a series of portrait photographs titled UnSuitable Girls. The women featured in the portraits participated in defining and staging their ‘unsuitability.’ Artist Swati Khurana made customized trophies for them, and Anjali Bhargava photographed the portraits. I’m excited for some elements from Her Stories to become part of the larger Indian American story that we tell here at the Smithsonian beginning in 2013.

An installation view of “Her Stories: Fifteen Years of the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective,” at the Queens Museum of Art. Photo by Jaishri Abichandani/Queens Museum of Art, August 2012.