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Portraits, Objects and Memories

From 6 -16th August, I lead my second round of workshop with children and women working and living at brick kilns sites in Mirzapur. On the first day, there were very few children to take part. But on the next day, I was delighted to see that the news had spread amongst the labourers that I was back again to take art workshops and many excited faces showed up to attend.


To start the sessions, I showed them an Artreach India comics book made by children from Kutumb Foundation, Savda Ghevra Resettlement Colony. They spent a long time reading the comics and those who couldn't read looked at the drawings to understand the story. It was very inspiring for all the participants to see published comics drawn by children their age, stories from children's lives and dreams. Some also drew images from the book and came up with their original stories to share.



Participants with their art kits and comics book 'Honest Dog and Other Stories' (Artreach India, Kutumb Foundation)

They next workshop day, we did a portrait making exercise. It was so much fun and laughter all round, first in choosing who wants to make whose was a real discussion! Then, they were very serious about observing exactly what their partners are wearing, how their hair is and their features. They took a long time in creating these and were so focused! This was the first time they had ever made each other drawings, they started observing with a lot of focus.

Chanda, holding a drawing he made of his brother suraj.

Rakhi's drawing of me. She didn't allow me to move at all while she was drawing with her full concentration.

Artist at work. Rakhi drawing my portrait.

In the still life workshop, I asked children to bring an object from their surrounding that they want to draw. Each child interpreted it their own way - though it was an aluminium pot, some created a clay matka instead! They said there is no colour in this pot so instead they filled it with all kinds of colours.

I think this workshop is an amazing experience for me and the participating children because they are learning about the things like bricks that they see and handle every day - what is the weight, dimensions, material and then how these can be drawn. They also had conversations with the manager of the brick kilns, who explained them in vast details about different sections the brick goes through in a kiln and how exactly the bricks are produced.

The workshop area became a space where a dialogue could happen between the labours and the other employees.

Gudiya drew a fairly accurate map of the kiln. You can see the black chimney in the center and the circular passage through which the bricks are carried.

I then asked all the participants to create images of things they miss from their homes in the villages. One boy, Suraj, created a beautiful drawing of his home, even though he hasn't been home in years. He also became quite emotional while talking about this drawing. Now that I am close to them, these kids talk to me quite openly, it is a space where they can share their life with me, they want someone to listen and for the first time they have a safe creative space!

There is a lot of interest of the kids in the workshops, they keep coming back and only want more time to draw more. I find they are learning new skills of basic art mediums very well, the children who can write also add short lines now that are associated with the drawings.

Anjali and her husband Vinod from a nearby brick kiln, together drew a scene of their village from memory

Rakhi's drawing of her uncle and aunt who stay in her village. She said that she misses them a lot and wishes to go to her village soon.

Pooja loves making beautiful drawings of flowers.