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Breaking the Ice

I have been travelling to Mirzapur (Uttar Pradesh 40 Kms from Varanasi) for my art projects from last 3 years. I slowly built relationship with the community there over these years. I used to interact with men and women working as labour at the brick kiln sites. After starting the project Surkhee in May 2018 with Artreach India's support, my engagement with the children and women have been very intense. I am working with a group of 10 participants at the site, from age group 6 to 28.

In the brick kilns they live in make shift houses out of bricks which they demolish and sell the bricks after every season. In a site like that where nothing is permanent, having a space to express creatively and make art that is their own becomes important for them. My purpose is to slowly build a creative space where they can freely express themselves, and also learn new things. To kick start the project i started with basic drawing activities to understand their interest. I gave them art kits with sketch book and colors which they kept drawing in very sincerely throughout the 10 days workshop. I told them to draw whatever they wish to. This made me better understand what each and every one of them liked to draw. Everyone of them had a different style and approach. Most of the drawings reflected things that they see on daily bases. Some of kids held colors first time and the results were surprising.

Most of the children don't go to school or left at an early age. It was first time for them to draw and paint. The owner of the brick kilns Pankaj Singh was a bit skeptical about the whole workshop in the beginning but later when he saw the children drawing so well with determination, he was very supportive of the program. He is even thinking of starting tuitions for the children.

Suraj's drawing of a brick stamped "Durga Maarka". The text in the image says "owner's name Jitender Pankaj". Children drew things from their daily lives and around the brick kiln.

Suraj - "I don't like to go to school because I dont have friends there. Nobody liked me in school."

When asked what he wants to become when he grows up he happily said - 'a doctor!'

Drawing by 9 years old Chanda. He lost his father at the tender age of four, Chanda and Suraj are brothers, Chanda has keen interest in geometric forms and bright colours. He wishes to be a truck driver like his father.

Both the brother's jobs is to load and unload bricks and give water to the labourers at work.

Anima's drawing of payment sheets for labourers that are marked by the cashier of the brick kiln.

Self portrait by Anima

Self Portrait by Anima. She is 9 years old and wants to become a "madame" when she grows up. She lives with her uncle and aunt and takes care of her cousin brother and sisters. She loves her village and does not want to work in brick kiln.

14 years old Kalavati's dream house. She shows keen interest in landscape drawings. She lives with four brothers and four sisters. They all work in the brick kiln to earn a living.

#art #children #labour #artworkshop #mirzapur #brickkilns #communityart #surkhee