Since my days as a fine art student, I have thought that art is a universal language, one without barriers through which we can reach people. The experiment I will be discussing here is kind of a turning point in my life. It made me believe in my own theory and also made me brave enough to follow it.
During my early college days, I always used to get angry at people spitting on streets, throwing garbage anywhere and not respecting environment in any way. I used to confront and scold people; many used to scoff at me as according to them it was none of my business. To an extent they were right. In a country like India people having civic sense is a rare phenomenon. There are ample reasons for this; education and its methodology is one of the most fundamental causes of this issue.
Four years after I left school I decided to conduct an activity with students from my old school. I talked to the students of standard 10th about the importance of civic rules and proposed an idea of making fifteen colour posters with the theme “keep your city clean” and sticking them on the walls of the railway station. Many students enrolled; I was very excited, made some posters myself and on the planned date went to the station and waited for all the students.
I sat alone for almost an hour during which time only two boys came there with no posters. They told me that parents were worried about their children getting infected by touching dirty walls of the station. I was stunned. I came back home dejected with a feeling of failure.
The memory of this experience came back when I was doing freelance teaching after my completing my graduate degrees in fine art and archaeology. I decided I wanted to address the same subject but this time with a sand sculpture workshop as the tool to reach to people. I conducted this event on the Girgaon Chowpati beach at Mumbai. I also gave an advertisement in a leading newspaper in order to invite people for this event.
I designed the workshop for the students of Communication Art department. First, there was an interactive session with the students in order to know what they thought about environment and issues related to its preservation in India. Then, in groups of six, each group was assigned to one issue. They were asked to design a sketch for their sand sculptures.
On the decided date all the students turned up on the beach at sharp 5.30 in the morning. The entire city was sleeping and the beach was peaceful. The sun was yet to arise and everyone was enjoying the soft feel of the morning. Soon, all of them were making sculptures. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life to see beautiful sculptures emerging out of the sand. As the day was rising and the city of Mumbai started waking up, people started visiting this event. It was a kind of art exhibition, not in a rich art gallery but in the world, requesting people to respect their mother earth. Students were really enjoying explaining their concepts to the people who approached and making them think seriously about these issues.
As sun started heating harsh, we packed up. This time I was not sad. I had decided to use art as a tool to reach to people about issues I feel responsible about. This wonderful day has embossed its memory on my heart forever. It made me believe in myself and in my ideas. It taught me that nothing can change in a day. Change is a process and I can only be a part of it by working with a complete faith and hope as a responsible artist citizen, an artizen.