or a group of school students from Turkey, it was an experience far removed from classroom learning.
The students, along with peers from the Thiruchitrambalam village near here, took to learning the basics of making terracotta figurines under the guidance of a master craftsman.
The trek to meet their tutor was itself a unique experience for the foreign students as they navigated alleys of Villianur, a traditional village known for art and culture for several centuries, to reach the thatched house of V.K. Munusamy, an illustrious terracotta artist.
The 45-year old craftsman who has only studied up to eighth standard, made the visiting- students spellbound with an art that has been passed on to him from 22 generations of his ancestors.
Students sat transfixed as Mr. Munusamy worked his hands dextrously moulding shapes from a ball of clay. In the background, women and men were busy churning the wheel of clay to make idols.
Dull clay was piled up everywhere but soon would transform into brilliant works of art.
The terracotta artist bagged 68 awards for his craftsmanship from across the globe, including an UNESCO award in 2005. He has demonstrated his art in several countries. Mr. Munusamy also made world’s largest terracotta horse recently in Chennai.
On experiencing the art of pottery making, Kaan Ozkok, student from Uskudar American Academy, Istanbul said, “It is amazing and he is like a professor without formal schooling. Now I am very much interested in the art of pottery making. With the guidance of the professor, I achieved my goal of making a Pegasus model in clay. We created something from nothing. It is just clay and hands.”
Hande Oktay, another student from the team added, “Learning the art along with Indian students at a thatched house was a novel experience. Though we had previous exposure to clay art in our country, we were not keen to learn the art. Now we are enthusiastic to learn the art.”
These students were brought together, both to discover themselves and to learn to collaborate with one another, by MindVISA, a community educational service organisation from Uskudar American Academy, one of the leading international schools in Istanbul, Turkey; students from Pathways, Noida, a top Indian school; and students from Gandhi Higher Secondary School in Thiruchitrambalam Koot Road.
Founded four years ago by Satheesh Namasivayam and Bade Kucukoglu, Chennai-based MindVISA brings together high school students across borders - such as rich and poor; foreign and local; rural and urban - and empowers them to co-live, co-learn and collaborate for common good.
During its programs, experts in art, music, dance, theatre, games, dialogues, and sports facilitate experiential learning sessions between students from varied socio-economic backgrounds to help them integrate with one another.
Explaining the objective of the initiative, Mr. Satheesh said it was to help students realise the genius within, thereby paving way for more respect for each other, irrespective of the socio-economic background one hailed from.
Mr. Satheesh said, “In 1800s, slaves and owners never went to school together. In 1900s, men and women were separated in school for most part of the century. We still continue to struggle with race and gender disparities. Similarly, this century’s biggest blind spot is economic disparity among people. We are separating kids of different economic backgrounds in their formative years. How will they suddenly achieve human unity when they grow up with so much of us vs. they?”
These programmes aim to bring students across borders on an equal platform, handholding them towards the realisation that each has something to learn from the other, thereby bridging the gap between them in their crucial formative years.
“Learning the art along with Indian students at a thatched house was a novel experience. Though we had previous exposure to clay art in our country, we were not keen to learn the art. Now we are enthusiastic to learn the art.”
Student, Uskudar American Academy