Taniya Dharani - alumna returned as visual arts fellow | Aga Khan Academies

Taniya Dharani - alumna returned as visual arts fellow

Taniya Dharani joined the Academy visual arts department as an Academy fellow in September 2018, but she is no stranger to the school, or even the visual arts department for that matter. “I was very keen on experiencing the other side of Academy life,” she says. Taniya is a member of the first graduating class of the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad in 2014, and now she is back in a teaching role.

“The Academy has made me the person I am today,” she says. “I wanted to give back to the Academy what it has given me.” After graduating from the Diploma Programme, Taniya went on to pick up a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Reading, England. In her current role at the Academy, Taniya wants to help visual arts students prepare for university level art courses. It’s also on her agenda to introduce art students to careers in their field that they might not have considered.

“I want to help give our Diploma Programme art students theoretical practice that will be useful at university,” she says. “I also want to help visual art students understand what opportunities the art world outside holds for them; artistic pathways they can opt for including business and law options in sectors that not everyone is aware of.”

Though she has her task laid out in front of her, returning to the Academy in her new role is understandably strange for Taniya. “I still feel like a student at heart,” she says. “But I’ve learnt to act like a teacher and take responsibilities.” Taniya understands that her experience as a student at the Academy puts her in a unique place of understanding in her current role as teacher. “I feel privileged to have the opportunity to see Academy life from a different light this time. Now I understand the day to day challenges teachers face, as well as the hardships of student life.”

Taniya fondly remembers her time as a student at the Academy. When she graduated, Taniya was the only student in the visual arts department. “I really enjoyed visual arts in school. Being the only student, I had the entire art studio and Ms. Meenakshi to myself.” She is referring to Meenakshi Joshi, who is now MYP coordinator in the Senior School. She also remembers history classes with Koel Ray, and service opportunities at old age homes and government schools that taught her humility and empathy.

However, her most cherished memory at the Academy is meeting His Highness the Aga Khan. At the inauguration ceremony of the Academy in 2014, Taniya had the opportunity to show and discuss her art work with HH. “It was the most precious gift that I ever received and a memory that has helped me hold onto my passion.”

In her personal life, Taniya cites her father as her source of inspiration. It is a common trope that parents discourage their children from pursuing a career in the arts, but this wasn’t the case for Taniya. “Despite people not understanding my passion for painting, he [Taniya’s father] always stood by me and helped me achieve my goals,” she says. Taniya is also proud of her father’s efforts in community service and the life he has led. “His struggles and achievements inspire me. It makes me want to do great things.”

“Growing up I realised that the only thing that ignited a fire in me was holding a paintbrush in my hands and dropping paint all over my clothes. It made me feel like all is well in my world, even when almost everything in life was falling apart.” Taniya is in some ways a time capsule from the Academy’s early years, and like a time capsule, she reminds us of things that have changed, and also about the things that have remained the same.

Written by Ajay Sundaram