In July 2015 I was awarded the Khel Mel Facilitator Grant 2015-16 from Artreach India, an NGO based in Delhi promoting the use of art for dealing with social issues within the city. The Khel Mel grant is for a six month period and focuses on bridging socio-economic barriers between children from completely different backgrounds, through the learning of folk art and craft. Over the six months, I put together twelve workshops along with the Artreach team, each consisting of about 15-20 children between 8-12 years of age, half of which were from underprivileged and marginalised sections of society and the other half from the far more elite schools in Delhi. Bringing them together, each workshop was mentored by a different master artist from a folk art community and facilitated by me.
The workshops were therefore multi -layered in there approach: while the main aim was to promote interaction between these children who would otherwise never meet or get to know each other’s worlds, the other focus was to have children learn about the diverse and rich folk art practices from across the country. We had two partnering NGO’s who support the education of underprivileged children in Delhi – Karm Marg and Nirmal Trust, and we also partnered with the Crafts Museum to bring in folk artists from the Madhubani, Bhil, Katputli, Sanjhi, Patachitra and Bankura traditions.
Each workshop day was an intense set of activities from warm up introduction and trust building games, free drawing exercises to actually looking into the folk artworks and examining them closely for the stories they tell and the worldviews they share, and then attempting our own artworks! Over the workshop, there would be hesitant but concrete leaps across the barriers of language, economy, geography and culture that otherwise bar these children from knowing each other and ever being in a learning environment together. I also think that unlike regular classes, meeting over something as creative as this, consistently pushed the urge to take new initiatives, start talking and play games together.
Here are a few images from the different Khel Mel workshops from over the six months: