Dijana Zordana Elfadivo’s project, as a Goethe bangaloREsident at the Yuva Chintana Foundation, was an experience, more than anything else.

The only evidence left, are the photographs which were recently on view at 1, Shanthi Road and the experiences of all those who worked with her, published in a book titled How the Elephants Were. This was also the title of the exhibition.

Dijana conducted a five-day workshop for 10 boys in a Children’s College (by Pipal Tree in Kabini) for tribal children, in an exploration of identity and also with a group of young actors at Aadima (the theatre group in Kolar) on costume design and experimenting with textiles.

“The workshop was about identity, I had just five days there and just with Kannada I can’t build a level where we discuss about identification. These boys are from the forest and they have a different reality, so I switched it the moment I arrived, into using mediums like drawings to express themselves. So we got to know each other,” says Dijana.

So they did some storytelling through drawing, Dijana asked them simple questions about their food, shelter, homes and dreams and they expressed themselves visually though a drawing or a collage.

“We also did some block printing. If you can express yourself with a pen, why not with cloth on your body? So they each picked out a cloth, put on some colour and went out. It was like a mini-carnival.”

And at Aadima, Dijana participated in the children’s activities and shared her insights into textile and costume design with block printing, even stitching a costume for them. Here too, as in the Children’s College, the young actors draped themselves in block-printed textiles and saris as a way of expression.

Dijana’s role is significant here, because she has opened up the world of art to tribal children who previously had no proper access to education. “I feel richer after the experience. They made me happy and I think they too were happy. I am not a teacher, I just wanted them to have an experience.”

The only documentation of her work are the photographs captured during her moments in the workshop and the photoshoot of the children and the youngsters draped in the saris.

“I had a good experience in the village. People are welcoming, friendly and curious, they stop their work just to greet me. And it’s a shift because you don’t have everything at your disposal.”