There was excitement amidst children of the seaside village of Alamparai, near Puducherry. They lined up at the village square to receive a precious package: a colouring book and colour pencils from a team from Chennai.
This was last weekend, when wildlife biologist Chaitanya Krishna and marine geographer Divya Karnad of In Season Fish, a sustainable seafood initiative, had visited the village. “They leafed through the book and were curious,” recalls Chaitanya.
The colouring book, titled Art to Heal , was the result of several weeks of work during lockdown. It has sketches by 39 artists — one from Australia and the rest from across India — themed on the marine world. It features line drawings of marine life including whales, sharks and turtles found in Indian coastal waters. With text in English and Tamil, the book has a fun Spot The Fish exercise that asks children to identify the species they colour.
Chaitanya and team distributed the book and colour pencils to around 70 children in the village, and will continue the exercise across fishing villages in Tamil Nadu and later, among children living inland too.
Chaitanya says, it all began as In Season Fish’s “Covid relief work”. “We distributed rice, dal , and oil to 1,000 fisherfolk families from Tiruvallur, Ennore, Cuddalore, Tuticorin, Nagapattinam, and Rameshwaram in April to help supplement their savings.” The pandemic was hard on the fisherfolk since they could not head out to sea for several weeks. “This took care of their physical well-being. But what about their mental well-being?” asks Chaitanya.
And so they came up with the idea of putting together a colouring book. “Children missed their school environment. We hoped the book would keep them engaged as well as keep their memory of the sea and all its creatures alive,” explains Chaitanya. In April, the team put out a request on its social media handle asking for artists to contribute and slowly, the book took shape.
Madhuri Tarimane is among the artists who contributed. “I’m from the coastal region myself,” says Madhuri, speaking over phone from Bengaluru. “I spent my early childhood in Karwar, Karnataka.” Which is why when she came across the opportunity, she did not let it go. “It also helped me cope during lockdown; I was stressed due to all the uncertainty,” she says. Madhuri also teaches children art and knows that it can be therapeutic. “Children have so much energy in them and art is a good way to channelise it,” she adds.
Chaitanya says that through Art To Heal , they plan to strike a rapport with people in the various fishing villages and start a conversation about conserving marine species and ocean health. The book, therefore, is just the beginning.
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