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Let’s draw our world

© UNICEF/India/2007
Creating comic strips

By Siddharth Tripathy

Dornapal, Dantewada, November 2006: Kattam Krishna fell asleep still clutching a pencil between his thumb and index finger. By his pillow a heap of loose sheets fluttered with a sudden gust of cold wind. Deep in his sleep, the nine year boy saw a world full of colours, hopefully different from his real world, which had made him see the violent deaths of his elder brother and father at the tender age of eight.

Sadly, it was the same story for Dudhi Bhime, Kawasi Anita and Banjam Budhri. For the students of Dornapal schools, their recent stint with colour pencils and paper had let loose a spate of unbridled fancy. For the past one week these unassertive pupils had been interacting articulately with Lakhinder and Rahul of the ‘World Comics’ group. They were learning to draw and tell stories.
As a part of the Child Rights Convention celebration fortnight, the duo from World Comics were busy training 52 students in making comic strips. Students from all the five residential ‘ashram’ schools participated in this creative event. Expectedly, the children shied away from any dialogue in the beginning, but once Lakhinder amused them by making caricatures of some of the kids, they opened up.

And then it was a problem of numbers to contain; on the first day itself so many students wanted to be a part of the drawing team that Lakhinder and Rahul had to make a selection which could fit into the tent’s space. Others were coaxed with gifts of colour pencils, paper and assurances that they would be taught later. In a couple of days, children squatting with their papers and pencil became a customary sight all around Dornapal school campus.

© UNICEF/India/2007
Each comic says a story

Once the first part of the exercise - drawing elementary forms and facial expressions  - was over, Krishna wanted to draw a story around how his father died. Bhime wanted to portray how her family left the village. Every child had a story to be told.

Although this was not strictly the purpose of the CRC celebrations, it was but natural their real life experiences found expression in their art. At the same time however, it was necessary to try and erase their painful memories. Lakhinder, with a deep understanding of child psychology gave an example of a potter at his wheel and explained to the children how art has two components – form and substance. It was the skill over form that made the potter eventually cast good pots. In a while the children understood that this was their opportunity to learn the craft of drawing. Later on they could develop it by telling their own stories.

The children spun an unending yarn of simple stories. While Dudhi Bhime sketched a meaningful story of a child who gets motivated to attend a school, Tati Bhima drew a satirical composition on local quacks who treat the sick.
Lots of pictures were drawn around the concept of sanitation and healthy life. Some of them portrayed the importance of drinking clean water while few others cautioned of malaria. Elder students from the middle school dwelt on more abstruse subjects like child marriage and alcoholism.

What could be a better alternative than art; because art and only art has the capability to transcend reality in order to comprehend it.

 

 

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