Minakshi Suri, a Class IX student from the tribal-dominated Keonjhar district of Odisha, uses a paintbrush as the medium to give wings to her dreams.
Her painting, which was on display at a three-day painting exhibition organised by Tata Steel Foundation (TSF) at Lalit Kala Academy in Bhubaneswar, depicted birds flying in the sky. That was her way of telling the world that the sky is the limit for her when it comes to pursuing her dreams.
Minakshi is different from most other children of her community who want to become doctors, teachers and engineers. For a change, she wants to excel as a businesswoman. The young girl, who lost her father quite early in her life, told The Telegraph: “My mother works as a labour. She takes care of me and my younger brother. I want to take up some business because that, in my opinion, is the best way of earning money enough to take care of my family. It can transform our lives. My art is a reflection of my dream of making it big in life through business.”
Like Minakshi, 97 tribal children were part of the Tata Steel Foundation’s Education Signature Programme with paintings of the children curated in collaboration with the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) and put on display at the academy. Altogether 111 paintings were on display at the exhibition that concluded on September 19.
The young artists belong to the age group of 9 to 15 years and are studying in Classes III to IX. In total, 68 girls and 30 boys from 57 schools in Jajpur and Keonjhar took part in the exhibition. The children belong to 12 tribes — Bathudi, Bhuiya, Bhumij, Gandia, Gond, Ho, Kolha, Mankirdia, Munda, Samti, Santal, and Sounti.
A discussion on the learning outcomes of the programme was also carried out with P. Sainath, founder editor of People’s Archive of Rural India, and Sourav Roy, chief executive officer (CEO) of TSF, on Tuesday.
Speaking on the occasion, Sainath observed: “You see the effort and the thought these children have put into their paintings. I have gone through every single one of them and have got to know different tales every time. What did it take — a few colour pencils and watercolours? Look at what they turn out to be. That explains what education can do for children like them.”
Tata Steel Foundation CEO Sourav Roy said: “Many of these young artists are first-generation learners who have become inspirations to all around them. Their paintings tell stories that might be overlooked otherwise, whichis what makes this exhibition even more worthwhile.”