- Vasundhara (Art Therapist)
I spent some time thinking about the kids I was going to work with before starting my sessions with them. Since they are children of migrant workers I thought construction noises, sand, mud, bricks, crowds, dust is what their surroundings would consist of; moving from city to city would be a big part of their life. The word that came to my mind was `Disconnect` and that is what I decided to work on with them.
The art sessions I do with them are about making connections, relating to things that they can find wherever they go. Nature, the sky, sun, stars, soil, trees, water…these form the base of our sessions. The activities we do are about observing, thinking and expressing. Since these children have been in and out of school they tend to work with whatever they have been taught to draw; which is mostly flowers, Indian flag and gods. But when we begin to sing little rhymes, and play games that lead us into using colours and pencils, I can see little thought bubbles emerging.
The first few minutes (quite a few minutes actually) are spent trying to get everyone into the class and to settle into a circle. We do a small round of calming with pebbles where they feel the texture , temperature, shape of the pebble they are holding. They love to tell us that the pebbles remind them of- mobiles, gulab jamun, soap, biscuit etc. A little struggle with calming down, a little translation into the proper kannada words and they rush to start their activity. I have found that a small trigger to their thoughts and colours in their hand is what it takes for them to settle. In all the chaos and noise we do encounter a few minutes of silence, a sudden hush.. all of them engrossed in what they are doing...it is a short but satisfying silence before the restlessness sets in again. Sometimes more chaotic than what we started the session with.
I have been pleasantly surprised (in most of the sessions) by their observation skills- try asking an average kid going to a regular school what the colour of water is. “Blue” would be the most likely answer. Ever noticed that water is painted blue only in picture books. At Gubbachi these kids told me water has no colour, some said white, some said it becomes the colour of whatever is added to it, but no one said blue. That left me pondering.
The children have actual experiences of things other kids might only read or hear about. It is heartening to see their readiness to learn in spite of squabbles and tiffs that quickly change to warm smiles and happy laughter or the other way round. There is a willingness to create something, to express, to talk about what they draw. And to proudly display their art work.
I am learning to give triggers and step back. Let them think, express, say what they want to, shed their inhibitions and create freely. I am also learning to listen to them, to what is really unfolding in their heads. Past few months have been a little trip of learning and unlearning for them and for me, but mostly it`s been an interesting exploration of little stories that emerge when we have scissors, paints, paper and glue to guide us and I`m looking forward to more.