‘Art by Children’ Workshop Turns Aesopian Fable on its Head

The familiar Aesopian fable of the ‘Ant and the Grasshopper’ provided the inspiration for a free-ranging workshop to facilitate artistic expression in children that was held over the past three days at the Biennale Pavilion in Cabral Yard, Fort Kochi.
Titled ‘Pulchadikal’ (Grasshoppers), the unique workshop was the latest in an ongoing series of innovative art engagement and education efforts geared toward children run by Art by Children (ABC) – a unique outreach programme of the Kochi Biennale Foundation.abc-workshop-3
Around 30 children across age groups, including students from Chinmaya Vidyalaya Kannamaly, participated in what was termed in the “creative invention of a space”. The workshop, which ran for six hours every day from January 6-8, saw the budding artists explore possibilities for art at Cabral Yard – one of the 12 venues for Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016.
Conducted by Nikhil KC, a Master of Visual Arts student from Ambedkar University Delhi, the workshop flipped the narrative of the fable, which praises the hardworking ant over the carefree grasshopper to present a more balanced take.
“While the moral of the story is to think a
bout the future, we thought to also focus on the importance of the now: to teach children that engaging with art – as the grasshopper does – is a worthwhile activity too. Play is as important as work,” said Nikhil, who had come to Kochi as a participating artist in the ongoing second edition of the Students’ Biennale.
Some of the results of the workshop can be seen in the paintwork on the walls at Cabral Yard. Besides the traditional model of putting paintbrush to paper, the participants used the walls, fallen pieces of wood, iron materials, among other found objects, to artistically engage with the space – whether that included painting the cracks in the walls or striking sticks to make music.
“The students were encouraged to have a creative engagement with the natural formations at the venue through different activities like collecting found objects from nature, painting and sculpting. This workshop was intended to give a new creative perception of these natural formations through creative exploration at the different sites done by the students,” said Manu Jose, who heads the ABC Programme.
To help the children buy into the workshop, a series of abstract dream-like images – like broken swords, chipped nails among other unusual objects – were shown to them. The facilitators then asked the children to describe what they saw. Another attempt was through capturing inkblot images, shapes and forms.
“There are too few engaging spaces like this for children outside the school and home. This workshop helped with their spatial and material learning processes. Anything and anyplace can provide possibilities and opportunities for art expression,” Nikhil said.

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