This is a girl that loves bright colours, pouring pink and violet plentifully into a path leading up to the Eiffel Tower she painted. In another painting, she has parked two peacocks on the stretched-out branch of a tree, full of flowers of the same pink shade. Her paintings greet visitors at the gallery atop the Alliance Francaise in Thiruvananthapuram when they first walk in. The rest of the space is also occupied by paintings by more than 25 girls, all of whom come from difficult circumstances. There are 117 paintings in all, made by these girls from different homes of the Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society (KMSS), which aims to empower women in rural areas, especially socially and economically marginalised groups.
Jeevan Babu, the director of KMSS, inaugurated the exhibition along with Lise Talbot BarrĂ©, Consul General of France in Puducherry and Chennai. Jeevan Babu spoke about his surprise to see the skills of these girls, chosen from four homes of the KMSS in Thiruvananthapuram. The Mahila Samamkhya programme covers 11 districts in Kerala.
â€śThese are children sent to the Women and Children homes (earlier called Nirbhaya) by the Child Welfare Committee. We take care of their education and their activities at the homes,â€ť Jeevan Babu tells TNM.
The children have had training in art before, but during the lockdown when they had little else to do, they drew everywhere â€“ on their notebooks and their bedrooms. Watching this burst of talent, more online classes to train the children were arranged. â€śThe training came with the help of a group called ARPAN, formed by employees of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Once a member of ARPAN visited one of our homes over a weekend and saw these paintings of the children. She is also a teacher at the Alliance Francaise and spoke to them about conducting an exhibition. They were most willing,â€ť shares Bobby Joseph, state consultant of KSMM.
Eva Martin, director of Alliance Francaise Thiruvananthapuram, says that this is the first event the centre is conducting after the breakout of COVID-19 last year.
The paintings have been carefully sorted on the walls, starting with the works of the girl who loves bright colours. Another loves to draw full moon nights in bewitching dark shades. A third loves pencil sketches of playful little girls and women and dreamy castles. There is romance â€“ silhouettes of couples in the dark, politics â€“ an Ambedkar here, a Che Guevara there, and painting of anklets on a pair of black-painted legs. There are soothing landscapes as well.
The exhibition is called Wingsâ€¦ If I have, a title that Jeevan Babu says is apt for these girls, who dream for wings. One of them, dressed in a pretty beige gown, thanked the organisers on behalf of all the girls at the home. â€śOur confidence increased more as we painted, now seeing our paintings here is thrilling and gratifying. We discovered that painting can be used to overcome pain and hardship in life. We will use the confidence we gained from the programme to mold ourselves and be self-reliant.â€ť
The exhibition ends on March 8, Womenâ€™s Day.