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Tihar Arts Festival — Canvas full of colours and hope at first of its kind exhibition

Having begun on August 19, the Tihar Arts festival saw about 20 of the finest artists and sculptors from across the country collaborate with inmates to create what is the first arts exhibition in Tihar.

Written by Soumya Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: August 24, 2017 5:22:51 pm
tihar arts festival, tihar arts festival photos, art and cukture delhi, delhi arts and culture what's new, tihar arts festival whats new, tihar delhi arts fest, delhi tihar arts festival latest news, indian express, indian express news The Tihar Arts Festival is probably only the latest addition to a list of other reformative measures that the prison complex has initiated.

“Saza nahi, sudhaar zaroori hai,” (Not punishment, reform is important) reads one of the sayings on a wall beyond Tihar Jail Gate number 2, implying how corrective measures are more important than punishment. Go a little beyond and one will see how the Lalit Kala Akademi and South Asia’s largest complex of prisons are endeavouring to bring it into practice.

Having begun on August 19, the Tihar Arts festival saw about 20 of the finest artists and sculptors from across the country collaborate with inmates to create what is the first arts exhibition in Tihar. While visitors and press flocked to admire the beauty of what has transpired onto their canvas —from black and white monotones, barbed wires, lovers’ tiff to lovers’ longing — one thing the inmates seemed certain of — outside the Gelusil-pink painted high walls too, they will paint and survive. Some with the money they will sell their artworks for, others with the belief that they are not worthless.

THE IMPORTANCE OF ART AS A REFORM MEASURE

While arts and culture is often diminished to be contained within the supplement pages of newspapers or seen as fulfilling recreational purposes, Anjolie Ela Menon, veteran contemporary artist, insists art is therapeutic for those who are suffering. Talking to indianexpress.com, she said in this case, it is not just an opportunity for the inmates to learn something but also allows them to forget their problems, albeit temporarily.

Padma Bhushan Ram Vanji Sutar too, believe that such opportunities will help them find their place back in the society. “The environment here seems like an art museum. This initiative will help inmates to focus on their talent and not their shortcomings and will help them bloom like a flower,” he said.

The Director General of Police (DGP) Sudhir Yadav too emphasised on how providing such platforms will help people to believe in themselves when he said the works seemed nothing less than that of professional artists.

Murali Cheeroth from Bengaluru and Sanjeev Sonpimpre from Mumbai are two of the professional artists who collaborated with the inmates for the workshop. “They were rigid and hesitant in the beginning, but the exchange of ideas lead them to open up so much, that it ended up becoming more of their work than mine!” Cheeroth said.

Inmates at Tihar Arts Festival

Cheeroth and Sonpimpre underlined the reformative quality that art contains. “These opportunities have the potential to culminate into jobs for the inmates in reality,” Sonpimpre said.

‘WE ARE NOT ANGRY ANYMORE’

Dr Sushma Yadav, who has been teaching the inmates along with some of her students from the College of Fine Arts, says the inmates would be impatient to sit for the classes. But now, as Ramesh and Ayyub say, things are different. They are two of the inmates in Tihar, and also proud owners of artworks that hang in the Tihar School of Art gallery.

“We don’t feel angry or tense anymore,” Ayyub said. Art has helped them to channelise their negativity more creatively, they said. So Sunil* painted a man being made to read the Bible by those who are trying to convert him to Christianity, Rohit painted three girls – one holding a book, another playing with butterflies and the third setting a dove free – implying how important it is for the girl child in our society to bloom like she wants to.

While some of them are wielding the paint-brush to take a stand on social issues, other bright minds are portraying symbolism. Like Mohammed Akeel, who drew a beautiful pink butterfly, because he is going to be set free soon and Jitender, who drew a mother cradling her infant while she leans on to a crescent moon implying how people will find all the happiness that they are searching for in their mothers’ bosom.

And for others like Ayyub, the colours, canvas and opportunity has given hope that they will not be seen as an outcast when they step out. “We feel like we can stand head-to-head with professional artists now,” Ayyub said.

The Tihar Arts Festival is probably only the latest addition to a list of other reformative measures that the prison complex has initiated. Ethic Tihar — inter-jail cultural meets that see people coming together to perform, sing and dance, a sports-festival called ‘Tihar Olympics’ are two of them.

*Actual name withdrawn on request

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