FRIDAY REVIEW

Toons tell all

PEOPLE IN several cities and countries observed World Water Day on March 22 in different ways. While some chose words, others chose images and visuals to convey the significance of this Day.WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) International Dialogue Project, in association with the Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India, organised an exhibition of graphic design and cartoons by Bangalore-based Rustam Vania on March 21-22 at the ICRISAT campus, Patancheru.

The exhibition was held as part of the National Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts, which had more than 120 academics, activists, high-level bureaucrats, judges and research scholars engaged in water issues. Rustam joined the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, in 1992 immediately following graduation in Fine Arts, Delhi University. He worked with the environmental journal `Down To Earth', published by the CSE, from 1992 to 2004. While there, he conceptualised and designed the interesting supplement that came with `Down To Earth', called `Gobar Times'.

Toons tell all

Rustam says, "My art requires sensitivity to issues and sharing the concerns we are dealing with. Mere designing does not work if the designer has no idea whatsoever of the contemporary issues. It is not merely about layout and putting images together." He adds, "It is a challenge to be able to balance art and one's own individual stamp and at the same time taking a back seat to let the message reach the audience evocatively. Means of communicating the message is as important as the message itself..."

What was the experience like with `Gobar Times'? "It was amazing as to how popular it became; there were anthropologists and teachers talking about it to their students as well as mothers recommending it to their children. We used to get numerous mails from people - `Gobar Times' became a great hit." Rustam feels it is important to keep in mind the client's message yet have your own creative freedom intact.

Toons tell all

The present exhibition happened with the Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts (a group of NGOs, activists, farmers and academics) and the WWF International approaching Rustam to design some material for a larger campaign on water conflicts. Rustam worked on these panels in record time of a little less than 15 days to produce amazing results.

Supported by the two initiatives, he plans to bring out a printed version of these 12 panels, which would be reproduced in books or any other literature meant for a national-level campaign on evolving a water policy. These panels will also be exhibited in as many places as possible and efforts are to partner with organisations and individuals who may want to send a message on water to their respective audiences. Rustam firmly believes that his work should be reproduced as much as possible without any hassles. That, he believes, will give them their true identity - of an effective, creative dialogue tool.

Among the attractive panels on show is a photograph of an elephant drinking water from a tap - taken at Mudumalai elephant retreat - both for the picture and the whole composition as such, with a catchy title - "Water conflicts: It is for Real!" Another cartoon panel, with the Minister for Water Resources in bandage from head to toe, highlights the obvious. All in all, the photographs, text and graphics blend harmoniously in each of the panels urging a second, third, fourth look. The exhibition did what it aimed at, drawing tremendous response from people, both participants in the national dialogue and those simply walking past.

R. UMA MAHESHWARI

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