Mumbai: As one walks into the sunlit classroom of Maulana Azad school in Dharavi on Wednesday, one feels it is no different than walking down the streets of the locality itself. The students have painted the walls to exhibit elements of their community and neighbourhood in the way they perceive them.
Ranging from their favourite mithaai-waalas (sweet vendors) to the grumpy old man living across the street, the room can be called a mini-Dharavi of sorts. Translating their observations of people, inhabitants, shopkeepers as well as the nature surrounding them, some 30 students have expressed themselves through the subjective nature of art, as they let their imagination run wild.
This colourful change is the outcome of The Pomegranate Dharavi Project, a three-month programme in collaboration with Smile Foundation, an art and education workshop aiming to sensitise students to the environment that they are living in. The exhibits are divided into two modules, the first being ‘My voice, my community’ which comprises an entire wall painted by the students depicting their interpretation of their community and its people.
One such painting depicts a man selling flowers, with hair similar to the shape of a flower. While another shows an old man, whose head is bigger than his body, with emphasis on his facial expressions as the children saw him on their way to school everyday. The wall also comprises self portraits of these 20 children, with the aim to make them understand themselves, who they are and where they came from, after which they moved on to their community.
Pointing at the painting of a girl sporting a spectacles and wearing a frock, Naaz Sheikh, a Class VII student giggles and says, “This is me. We did not only draw people around us, but ourselves, too. That was the tough part, actually.” She added that it took the children around two hours to complete the wall.
The corridor of the room, took on the looks of the famous 90 feet road, depicted on a sheet of black paper, where the students after having observed the entire road together, have drawn various shops, boutiques and people as they see on the roads, giving a touch of their own perception to them.
“This is their area, and is rooted in their everyday experience. These children have grown up here and hence have a lot to express. What we wanted to tell these children is that art has no right or wrong side to it, it is all about how you perceive the world around you,” Madhumita Srivastava, the facilitator of the workshop said.
The second programme, was the graphic module that comprised nine children who created a comic book, called the ‘Satuday Co-mix,’ a collection of tales created through their own ideas, either inspired by real-life incidents or completely a product of their own imagination. “The idea behind the name is that usually, comic books are associated with the element of humour but this comic book has stories ranging from the genres of horror, thriller and comedy,” the lead facilitator for the Graphic Novel module, Chaitanya Modak, a comic book creator said.
Lalit Gupta, a Class VII student and author of his story, ‘ Mote ka sapna ,’ nudging his friend and classmate who he occasionally made fun of in good humour said, “He was the idea behind my story. The story is about an over-weight boy who wants to lose a few pounds but cannot because he loves eating so much.”