Slum children's art fascinates South Mumbai crowd

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 14 September 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: A group of children from the sunburnt slum localities of Mumbai has caused a flutter of amazement among the wine and cheese set with an art exhibition this weekend.

The revolution is unfolding thanks to an NGO named Aseema that has adopted three municipal schools in Bandra and Santa Cruz, where the kids study.Children of maidservants, rickshaw drivers and menial workers, the little ones are exposed to masters like Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse and Jamini Roy. In fact their familiarity with art, pottery and woodcraft empowers them in a way that would drive envy among the privileged students of IB and CBSE schools. Suitably impressed, Cymroza Art Gallery in Breach Candy has opened its portals for them from September 12-14. Friday's inauguration ceremony was conducted by the students themselves. Speaking fluent English, little Shabanaz, Majjabin, Zeba, Bala and their classmates showed their guests around paintings inspired by African aboriginal art, Rousseau, Senaka, Gond and Kalighat styles.

A proud corner was reserved for hand-painted turtles, elephants, umbrellas, stationery, bags and coasters whose sales proceeds are ploughed back into the NGO. Sanaa Shaikh, chief operating officer, Aseema, says, "We run an international art programme named Room 13. This is so different from the manner in which we learnt art in school - two mountains and the sun rising behind. Here, when Farida Ahmed teaches the children aboriginal art, she shows videos of African natives playing the drums. When Varsha Trivedi explains why Gond themes are focussed around nature and animals, she says that tribals simply draw what they see."

The Aseema model works as a sparkplug for it allows each student to cultivate independent thought. The children are free to pick or reject elements of their choice. Little Shabanaz knows that Gond art must have an animal in the frame. "The antlers of the reindeer often extend into tree branches or the tiger grows into the bark. But I dropped the wildlife because I don't like animals. I chose to paint only foliage," she says. Another child has drawn a clothes line running through Rousseau's jungle just as it does outside his house.

Aseema's attempt at skill development began in 1997, well before PM Narendra Modi made it his mantra. "If you see the bigger picture, the fact is that we have managed to stem the dropout rate and equip the children with a trade for life," says Aseema's founder Dilbur Parakh. Director Amole Gupte who has been training Aseema's children in acting and direction since eight years was guest of honour at Friday's inauguration. His last film 'Hawa Hawai' had four child actors from this school. "You should see them dissect 'Bicycle Thieves' and 'Do Bigha Zamin'. Of my students, young Soliya Qureshi is in Class IX and has already made a short film," he said. Gogh,south Mumbai,Sanaa Shaikh,Picasso,Narendra Modi

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