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Imagination vs Knowledge

When the basic needs for food, shelter, education, medical care or protection, discrimination and security are not met, children are considered to be in difficult circumstances.

Komal Prasad | New Delhi |

When the basic needs for
food, shelter, education, medical care or protection, discrimination and
security are not met, children are considered to be in difficult circumstances.
Such children are at a great risk of suffering from malnutrition, diseases and
possibly death. But more poignant is the impact on their young minds.

 A three-day exhibition of artwork by children
living in difficult conditions, held last week at the India Habitat Centre,
depicted all these issues affecting their lives and brought forth the pathos
hidden deep within them. Organised by Plan India, a member of Plan
International Federation, the exhibition was part of the National Conference
for Children in Difficult Circumstances and involved children aged between
12-18 years from five regions of the country ~ North, South, East, West and
North-East. Plan International Federation, a nationally registered independent
child development organisation committed to create a lasting impact in the
lives of vulnerable and excluded children, their families and communities.

 Inaugurated by noted film director and chair
emeritus of Plan India Board, Govind Nihalani, the objective of the exhibition
was to highlight the issues affecting the lives of vulnerable children living
on the streets and working, those affected by HIV/AIDS, victims of commercial
sexual exploitation and trafficking, children of female sex workers and child
labourers. The artworks were shortlisted following five regional workshops
organised by Plan India in Imphal, Pune, Bharatpur, Hyderabad and Ranchi and
involved 30 -35 children in each workshop.

 Ela Mukherjee, curator of the Plan for Every
Child Art exhibition, explained, “Children were introduced to new mediums
to express themselves and handling each medium is a new learning experience for
them. So they challenged themselves to portray new ideas and express themselves
differently with each new medium introduced.”

 Children, individually as well as in groups,
created artworks using canvas, glass, paper mache, and recycled wastes. Out of
the total art work collected, almost 22 large paintings, 35 glass painting, 25
paper mache and 12 posters were exhibited at the National Conference. The child
artists from Imphal were mostly orphans, inHyderabad they were child labourers,
in Ranchi the children were from the families working in mines and in Pune, the
children were HIV/AIDS infected or affected.


Different strokes

Maharashtra was selected from
the west zone. The children here also used canvas painting to depict problems
like corruption, adult education, superstition, gender equality, health and
harassment of women. They also produced glass paintings and strung up sketches
made on small pieces of handmade paper in the form of a toran, which is hung at
the entrance of a home.

Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh
was selected from the North Zone. Their canvas painting showed gambling and
alcohol addiction, child labour, molestation, child trafficking and girl’s
education. The children made paper mache crafts and painted their aspirations
on white and red sandstones.

Andhra Pradesh was selected
from the South Zone. Through canvas painting the children reflected the
problems of female foeticide, child labour, child marriage and child
kidnapping. They also prepared collage from old newspapers and magazines, and
also made glass paintings. The individual pages of the collage were joined
together to make a flip-flop book.

Jharkhand was selected from
the East Zone. Through canvas paintings the subjects depicted here were child
abduction by the Maoists, child labour in mines, child trafficking and open
defecation. Children portrayed their aspirations through portraits in paper
mache mounted on individual small “sups” (rice sieve), which is an
integral part of socio-religious life of Jharkhand. The images depicted by
children included working in mines, cleanliness, open defecation, child
marriage and dowry death.