About Words on Water

2:00 — 2:50: Whose wedding is it anyway? Groom broom and other issues moderated by Ritu Marwah — A look at marriage as an institution and gender roles within it. Panelist Sonya Pelia, Ella Callan and Annie Fukisiama.

Ella Callan started out as a radio journalist in Australia in 2000 and has been broadcasting from Asia since 2008. She also files features for news and goes live on air when news breaks. In 2014, she was a John S. Knight fellow at Stanford University in California. The country she is most passionate about is Myanmar- formerly known as Burma because she was fortunate enough to live there during its breathtaking transition. During her Knight fellowship, she was exploring ways for journalists in Myanmar to use the internet to bring positive change to the country as it starts a long journey towards democracy. Other than covering Myanmar, she has been in the thick of Thailand’s political conflict and on the front lines of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. She believes in stories that motivate people and change their assumptions. News for her is positive, creative and inspirational!.

Sonya Pelia has lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 25 years. Her passion for changing the world and grassroots activism in the South Asian community has kept her involved in Maitri since 1993. Sonya is the President of the Maitri Board of Governance and also serves as one of the two official spokespersons for Maitri. Sonya formed the Asian Women’s Bridge with representatives from AACI, the Korean Women’s Support Group, and the Asian Law Alliance, and ran the group for 5 years doing advocacy and education about Asian family dynamics and domestic violence in the Bay Area. She also served on the Board of Directors for, Santa Clara County Occupational Safety and Health Organization (SCCOSH), Santa Clara, California from 1996 to 1999. She has been the recipient of the Good Neighbor Award for Outstanding Community Service by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Santa Clara County in 1996 and also received the Citizenship Award for Community Service by Cisco Systems in 1999 & 2000.

Ritu Marwah, award winning chef, author of true to life short stories from the Bay area, and freelance writer lives in Silicon Valley. She has pursued non-profit marketing, high-tech marketing, startup management, raising children, coaching debate, and has hiked the treacherous Siachen glacier, a war zone between India and Pakistan. Ritu graduated from St. Stephens College Delhi, did her masters in business from IIFT, Delhi and joined the Tata Administrative Service. She headed the Taj Group of Hotels London sales and marketing office for six years before moving to the Bay Area where she saw the hubble bubble of the dotcom world from close quarters.

Nipun Mehta is the founder of ServiceSpace (formerly CharityFocus), an incubator of projects that works at the intersection of volunteerism, technology and gift-economy. What started as an experiment with four friends in the Silicon Valley has now grown to a global ecosystem of over 400,000 members that has delivered millions of dollars in service for free. Nipun has received many awards, including the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the President’s Volunteer Service Award and Wavy Gravy’s Humanitarian award. He is routinely invited to share his message of “giftivism” to wide ranging audiences, from inner city youth in Memphis to academics in London to international dignitaries at the United Nations; his speech at UPenn commencement in May 2012 was read by millions.

In the late 90s, Nipun went to a homeless shelter with three friends to “give with absolutely no strings attached.” They ended up creating a website, and also an organization named ServiceSpace. In 2001, at the age of 25, Nipun quit his job to become a “full time volunteer.”Today, both Nipun and his wife Guri live in Berkeley and stay rooted in a practice of small acts of service. The journey continues.

Annie Isabel Fukushima, Ph.D., Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Associate, Institute for Research on Women and Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Dr. Fukushima received her Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. She is also an adjunct professor with Peace and Conflict Studies, University of California, Berkeley. Her research examines Asian and Latina/o migrants in the Americas and violence. In particular, her work navigates the visual culture, media discourse, legal contexts and sociological implications of how one crosses into visibility as a trafficked migrant or trafficker. Dr. Fukushima is a consultant for Office for Victims of Crime, and has experience of working at all levels of organizations (from a volunteer with Asian Women’s Shelter (2007 — ), a case manager with the SAGE Project for international human trafficking (2009 — 2011), and a member of the Board of Directors, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2010 — 2012).

3:00 — 3:55: Collecting and Interpreting Women’s Art in India Today.

Mary-Ann Milford-Lutzker, a leading art historian, and Dipti Mathur, an important collector of contemporary Indian Art, discuss the importance of women artists in India and Pakistan today. They will address the significance and power of meaning in women’s art as it investigates and critiques the social, cultural and political issues prevalent in South Asia today; and also the joy that collecting the art of established and rising young artists brings, such as the art of Zarina Hashmi, Shahzia Sikander, Ranjani Shettar, Hamra Abbas, Rina Banerjee and Nalini Malani, to name just a few.


Mary-Ann Milford-Lutzker, Professor of Asian Art History, holds the Carver Chair in East Asian Studies, and is Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at Mills College. She received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Her early work focused on traditional Indian and Indonesian art for which she wrote on and curated exhibitions including The Image of Women in Indian Art, and Myths and Symbols in Indonesian Art. Since the mid-90s she has been working with women artists in India. In 1997 she curated Women Artists of India: A Celebration of Independence, an exhibition that was part of India’s celebration of fifty years of independence from British colonial rule. In 2001 she curated the first retrospective of Zarina Hashmi’s art. She has written extensively on Indian women artists, and written and curated exhibitions of Asian American artists. In 2012 she was an NEH fellow at the Institute for Asian American Art, New York University.

Dipti Mathur is a biochemist turned collector of contemporary South Asian art. She has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and has performed post-doctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dipti serves on the Board of Trustees of the San Jose Museum of Art, and the Collections Committee of the Asia Society Museum, New York. Previously, she has served on the Board of Trustees of the Seattle Art Museum, the Montalvo Arts Center, on the Contemporary Art Advisory Panel of the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, and on the Advisory Board of the Asia Society of Northern California. She frequently works with museums and universities in the US on matters relating to contemporary South Asian art. She is one of the Founding Members of the Asian Contemporary Art Consortium, San Francisco. Her current interests lie in working with institutions in the US on promoting a broader cross-cultural understanding of the contemporary visual culture of South Asia.

Over the past twenty years, Dipti has built a highly regarded collection of modern and contemporary South Asian art. The Mathurs have also supported several important exhibitions and symposia on Indian art held in the US, including Edge of Desire, Conversations with Tradition (works by Shahzia Sikander and Nilima Sheikh), Roots in the Air Branches Below, Paper Like Skin, (Zarina Hashmi’s retrospective) and Naiza Khan and Jitish Kallat’s solo exhibitions, Karachi Elegies and Epilogue, respectively.

4:00 — 5:00: Democratization of education: With MOOCS, it is possible for anyone with an internet connection to get an education, even opening the doors to elite institutions. Moderated by Jaya Padmanaban, Panelist Nipun Mehta and Nitin Dua (PwC)

Event Info:

  • Saturday, 28th June
  • Menlo College, 12 PM
    1000 El Camino Real, Atherton, CA 94027