CHICAGO: Following its successful inaugural exhibition “E/Merge: Art of the Indian Diaspora,” the National Indo-American Museum (NIAM), which builds bridges across generations and connects cultures through the diverse colorful stories of Indian Americans, announces “American Desis: Roots and Wings,” an exploration of the heritage and experiences of Indian Americans in the United States. The exhibition opens with a free public reception Friday, July 292022 from 5 to 7 p.m. at NIAM’s home, the Umang and Paragi Patel Center, 815 S. Main Street, Lombard, a Southside suburb of Chicago.
The exhibition comprises a set of 24 interpretive panels, the first of which states, “The first Asian in Congress. The creator of Hotmail. Athletes. Doctors. Cab drivers. Musicians. Activists. One out of every 100 Americans traces his or her roots to India. From Silicon Valley to Small-town, U.S.A., the lives and stories of America’s 3.3 million Indian Americans are woven into the larger story of this nation—and have shaped what it is today.”
The exhibition continues with panels on, among other topics:
- Immigration and the diverse heritage of Indians
- American images of Indians, including through the popularity of Bollywood films
- Challenges to obtaining citizenship
- The word “desi” representing a collective identity for South Asians
- The ways music, dance, and food tell the Indian-American story
- The introduction of yoga to American culture
- Indian-American professions, from doctors to engineers, from scientists to cab drivers, and more
Originally titled “Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation” and produced by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the National Museum of American History (NMAH), the exhibition ran at the NMAH from February 2014 to August 2015. NIAM co-hosted the traveling version of the show (organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service) with the Field Museum from summer 2017 through January 2018. When the national exhibition tour ended, the Smithsonian donated the exhibition to NIAM.
“‘Desi Roots and Wings’ is a great introduction to the history and culture of Americans of Indian descent,” said NIAM Executive Director Tamara Biggs. “Even if you are part of the community, you will discover something new. And if you are not desi and curious about the community, this is the best place to start.”
The National Indo-American Museum (NIAM) aims to document and exhibit the stories of diverse Indian communities across America, creating an archive of Indo-American history and culture for future generations. Launched in 2008 as the Indo-American Heritage Museum, NIAM grew organically from the Education department of Chicago’s Indo-American Center. NIAM is the first U.S. museum established by and for Indian Americans, evolving to tell the stories of this immigrant community. It is also the first museum of its kind to combine art, education, and digital technology to preserve the heritage and celebrate the contributions of Indian Americans to America’s cultural mosaic.
NIAM is supported in part by the Arts Work Fund, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Chicago Community Trust, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, RallaKlepak Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Studio Institute, US Bank, and many individual donors.