Sananda Mukhopadhyay who runs the initiative Extension Arts asked me a week back if I would like to go to Ganjad village in Dahanu. Slightly surprised I asked her why a beach town and she replied to see the walls of a school. School, which school? What walls? Why? Then she mentioned there was a group of Japanese people who were painting the walls of a school in Dahanu. I recollected photos on Facebook of a set of amazing paintings on the walls of a school in Bihar. Yes, it turned out that the same group that had painted the walls of that Bihar school were here in Dahanu.
I jumped at the proposal since I had always envied the school students who had such lavishly decorated walls in their own classroom. I had studied in a school where keeping the walls clean was a big objective and if a child scribbled something on any wall then she would be punished if the teacher came to know of it. And, here was a school with painting all over its four walls and even the ceiling- and the school authorities invited others to paint!!! Of course, I would go to Dahanu. Not only curious to meet the Japanese team, see the painted walls but to meet some of the students who I so envied.
After some perfect coordination and arrangement by Sananda 10 of us set off for Dahanu. I was driven there by her mother, Rita, a scientist! Why would a senior scientist with the Indian Government want to visit a local school nearly 130 kms from Mumbai, a long 3 hour drive by her on her only holiday a Sunday? It turned out that the artist and dancer in her was aspiring to connect with this initiative, and why not? After all how far is science from arts and all education starts at an elementary school 🙂
Before leaving for the trip I found from the Internet that a group of university students from Tokyo had visited the Niranjana Public Welfare Trust in Sujata Village in Bodh Gaya in Bihar in 2006. The NGO authorities that ran a school mentioned that they didn’t have enough funds to build more classes so the group of 50 students returned to Tokyo and sent funds to enlarge the school. But, according to Kazunori Hamao, Director and Coordinator of Wall Art Project, Educator, the students wanted to do much more, they had already got so involved with the school, the NGO and the children that they wanted to contribute more than just money. That’s when they chose what “India had in brilliant abundance…local art.”
For reaching out to the Bihar school and many such schools in a more organised and orchestrated manner the Wall Art Project was launched in 2009 by this group in Tokyo. Their objective is to bring about a change in the field of education in rural India, and what better way to do it than by making beautiful and imaginative creations all over the classrooms covering every inch of the walls from the ceiling to the floor that students would want to be a part of.
They organised the first Wall Art Festival in Bihar 2010-2012, in Maharashtra 2013-2014, and again in Bihar last year November. They have also organised the Earth Art Project in Ladakh at the village Puga.
How do they zero down on which regions to reach out to? They select regions that have statistics of lesser involvement in education; then they involve Indian and Japanese artists to paint murals in the local government school of the selected region. Once the paintings are complete the local communities around the schools are invited for an exhibition, people from nearby cities are encouraged to visit these rural schools.
And how did they select Ganjad? Rajesh Chaitya Vangad, an internationally renowned Warli artist had worked with the Japanese team in 2010 – 2012. His work can be seen at the T2 airport terminal at New Delhi. He had been very impressed with the artwork and its impact and knew that in his village there was a problem with children going to school for education. So he invited the Japanese team to visit his village Ganjad, and when like-minded artistic minds meet and interact it results in a creative explosion.
The theme for both the Japanese and Indian artists this time was ‘nature’ but how fantastic are the differences in their creations!
At Ganjad, the Wall Art Project organisers held a 3-day programme where they showed films from their previous projects, presented a dance performance called ‘Birth’, held envelop making, stencil making and printing and other workshops. They even inaugurated the ‘Noco’ café ‘a house with the traditional techniques of the Warli tribe and Japanese interior design’, and a seed project.
So those of you who have missed out the previous projects can and should visit Ganjad at the earliest. The project whitewashes the earlier projects’ artworks when the new works are created. I was lucky to see both the old and new works, what about you?