Artists come together to raise funds for India as country faces Covid-19 second wave

Authors such as Salman Rushdie, Avni Doshi and Ali Smith have also participated in fundraising campaigns

A number of artists and authors have come together to raise funds for India as the country battles a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Initiatives such as Artists for India, for example, brought together 70 writers – including Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie, Ali Smith, Jodi Picoult, Fatima Bhutto, Avni Doshi, Megha Majumdar and William Dalrymple – to sell signed copies of their books, with the proceeds going to Mission Oxygen, a non-profit organisation that purchases oxygen concentrators for hospitals and nursing homes in India.

Canadian visual artist Alison Dunlop has also pledged a watercolour work to the highest donor.

The fundraising efforts of Artists for India is spearheaded by London writer Sonia Faleiro, who has spent almost 20 years reporting on the South Asian nation. In April, the country witnessed a spike in coronavirus cases, totalling more than 21 million at the time of writing.

"I'm well aware of how economic inequality, a fragile healthcare system and rising authoritarianism have left the country ill-prepared to fight the pandemic," Faleiro tells The National. "But the extent of the devastation, which is ongoing, has left me in shock."

She says she started the initiative in order to "channel my fear and grief into something constructive", reaching out to various authors to participate. "Within 24 hours, more than 50 authors had pledged to donate and mail out signed copies of their works," Faleiro  says.

Art for India have also galvanised artists, raising £30,000 ($42,000) for Mission Oxygen since the campaign launched on Sunday.

The print sale, organised by Heta Fell, Vivek Vadoliya and Danielle Pender, includes works by Ashish Shah, Bharat Sikka, Avani Rai and Kalpesh Lathigra, among others. Their prints are sold for £100 each online, and proceeds after printing and shipping costs will be donated.

Vadoliya reveals that the initiative was put together within 48 hours, after he and the other organisers reached out to their network of artists whose works centre on India. “Our goal with this project was to get short-term funds into the country as quickly as we can,” he said.

The sale continues until Sunday, with more prints being added to the website.

In the UAE, artist Nabla Yahya is selling 50 of her cyanotype Ashen, which depicts a hand carrying a burning heart like a torch. For a $100 donation to any of the four non-profit organisations selected by Yahya, doners can receive one of the works.

Dubai gallery Carbon 12 has worked with one of its artists, Amba Sayal-Bennett, to contribute three drawings towards fundraising efforts. Sayal-Bennett, who lives in London, is known for abstract drawings and sculptures that combine architectural, diagrammatic and totem-like structures. Proceeds from the three works on paper, which cost €650 ($783) each, by the artist, will be donated to Give India, an online donation platform.

As hospitals continue to be overwhelmed and citizens struck with grief, the Indian government has faced criticism for its handling of the pandemic, including the delays in dispensing aid to those in need. At the start of last week, ventilators, medicines and oxygen equipment arrived in the country from the UK and the US. However, state officials have told local media the supplies were not distributed until more than a week after arrival. The government has denied the claim, but places like Kerala, still had not received aid as of Wednesday evening, according to a BBC report.

Indian officials have linked the second wave to the rise of a "double mutant" variant that was first discovered in the country in March. The double mutant is the result of two mutations joining in the same virus. The variant, known as B.1.617, has been found in states such as Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh.

As of Thursday, India has reached another record number of new infections, with 412,000 new cases and almost 4,000 deaths in the past 24 hours.