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Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

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As part of the summer activities within Khirkee and KHOJ, the Art Workshop was facilitated from mid-May to mid June 2010, where young children, mostly from 8-13, got a free hand at expressing their creativity and imagination by drawing anything they wished and having riotous fun with colors.

The students gathered everyday to play and experiment, for approximately three hours during late afternoon and early evening originally at KHOJ Studios and later at the Khirkee Village Park, as the groups became bigger. With freedom, discovery, and imagination as keystones for the project, the workshop attempted NOT to teach the regular ‘how-to-do’s’ of art – how to draw or how to colour – but rather how to simple simply be yourself. The exercises encouraged freedom in thoughts and ideas, the freedom to explore subjects of our heart’s desire, the freedom to discover, imagine and engage in pure joy and fun without being coerced by restrictive notions of winning, performance, competition, or the fear of failure.

Their choice of subject matter was vast and varied. Seated around a tiled plinth surrounding an unused water-fountain in the park the children drew houses, gardens, mountains, streams, fishes, frogs, birds, buildings and the traffic, whilst also engaging in various games and activities. While suggestions were offered when necessary, the idea was to keep discussion to a minimum and offer children an open hand, to be guided by their own imagination, to colour ‘outside of the lines’ as much as they liked instead of following any prescriptive rules.

Besides this, one of the broader objectives was to encourage the children to observe their immediate surroundings  (the neighbourhood of Khirkee) and attempt its visual representation, either drawing from broader ‘mental maps’ or by direct observation through site visits. This was used as a tool to generate interest, appreciation, and discussion about the various facets of the neighbourhood.

Art Workshop aimed to reinforce:

  • The Notion of Freedom –  The freedom to make art/ draw whatever one desired or fancied and to utilise this freedom to choose subjects as one wished
  • Flights of Imagination – To colour ‘outside-the-lines’ and dwell comfortably and thrive ‘outside-the-box’
  • The Joy of Discovery – Seeing new details/ meaning in one’s immediate surroundings, familiar spaces and places in the neighbourhood; to encourage and facilitate humour and laughter in generous doses and to have fun while being creative

Each of these objectives was integral to the success of the project and was used as a springboard that the children could respond to and bounce off spontaneously. This is what made this project a memorable one for all.

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