How Green Valley Educational Institute’s art exhibition showcased hidden talent among children.
By Farooq Shah
BADRUN Nisa, a research scholar at the University of Kashmir, Department of English, recalls listening to her grandfather recite the poems written by Saadi and Hafiz as a young girl.
Her artwork, which focused on spirituality and Sufism, were immensely appreciated by the visitors to the two-day art exhibition organized by one of the valley’s top schools on 29-30 November at the Tourism Department’s Nigeen Club in Srinagar.
The exhibition themed “Sat Rang,” meaning “seven colours,” featured some 400 art-pieces created by the students of Green Valley Educational Institute, some of whom were as young as eight years old.
The exhibition provided the visitors with a rare opportunity to recognize the hidden potential of the children as they browsed through the many sections, which included bone-carving, watercolour painting, calligraphy, and pencil sketching.
Numerous dignitaries, including the popular cartoonist Bashir Ahmad Bashir and well-known national artist Deepa Soni visited the exhibition.
Quoting the Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci, “Painting is poetry that is felt rather than seen, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen,” Nisa described how her love for Sufi poets and personalities, notably Maulana Rumi, drove her into the world of painting.
In one of the paintings in which she portrays a turbaned mystic with folded hands, she strives to establish a link between the guide and the seeker while keeping in mind the enduring relationship between Amir Khusrau and Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.
Khusrau, an Indo-Persian Sufi singer, musician, poet, and scholar who lived under the Delhi Sultanate in the thirteenth century, is a legendary character in the history of the Indian subcontinent.
Nisa said that while speech and writing can be susceptible to many different types of censorship, art transcends both restrictions and constraints and offers a platform unlike any other for expressing the pent-up feelings.
“People of straw will never really get the beauty or complexity of the art, and those who do will fully comprehend the struggles that people in that specific age or epoch face,” Nisa said. “The event planners deserve praise for putting together such a diverse display serving well in providing a right platform amid living in a choked environment.”
Showkat Kathjoo, a teacher at the University of Kashmir’s Institute of Music and Fine Arts, concurs with Nisa in saying that art is perceived as a challenging authority at the face of the hegemony of whatever nature which, in essence, it is not.
After going through a “disturbing” period in his personal life, Kathjoo—who compares art to a “liberating force”—says that “it has given me a new lease of life, or perhaps I should say a rebirth.”
“My upbringing was somewhat upsetting, and because my point of view was not always appreciated, I may have developed a rebellious streak,” Kathjoo said. “I would attribute my resurgence to the calling of art after wasting some of the precious years of my life in the most reckless way possible.”
In order to get through that ‘terrible’ time, Kathjoo used to occasionally hide behind closed doors for fear of retribution from various quarters, and was compelled to read literature and paint a lot.
“Art has always contested hegemony of some type, as opposed to the state’s power, which is, in my opinion, a positive indicator in a vibrant society,” he said. “We need to instill in our young generation a sense of questioning rather than being complacent about things remaining still, without entering into the violent territory though.”
If younger children are given the chance to express themselves freely through art and other recreational activities without the authoritative control, some undesirable areas—drugs, corruption, moral turpitude, intolerance, aggression, etc.—can easily be avoided, noted Kathjoo.
“Given the significant contributions that Muslims have made to music and art, it is ludicrous for some to believe that some activities are prohibited by Islam,” he said. “Any society that lacks a creative output via its youth is doomed to perish.”
CEO of Green Valley, Mohammad Yousuf Wani, while commenting on the need to offer the children a fair platform, stated that every child around us is an artist.
“As a result of Green Valley Educational Institute’s leadership in encouraging initiatives that bring out the best in kids, you may witness artists as young as eight taking part in the show,” Wani said. “Without supporting our artists, we’ll end up sacrificing our imagination on the altar of primitive reality.”
Wani commended the activity department of his school in pulling up such a fantastic event on a brief notice.
Shaheena Parveen, who heads the art department, said that ever since she graduated from the Fine Art College, she has yearned to hand the torch to the next generation.
“Be it engineering, medicine, design, literature, or any other field, the application of art is evident in many facets of life,” she said. “We didn’t have the right opportunities when we were young to develop any creative traits, but children nowadays have easy access to the tools they need to develop their artistic ability.”
Hina Arif, who is a recent hire in the art department, has been a part of several exhibitions held in India and has put at least 10 of her paintings for display. Her artwork, especially the one showing an aged Kashmiri Pandit woman depicting the plight of her community, was the event’s main draw.
Hina feels encouraged by the likelihood that students would pursue art in shaping their perspectives.
“I find it really encouraging that young children have a talent for choosing the proper colour, and I’ve had some luck explaining to them the feelings that a specific colour conjures up,” Hina said. “We made sure the children had the right knowledge of how colours are used and the feelings they convey before we went to the show.
According to Nusrat, a colleague of Hina’s, child art is more successful at highlighting a child’s true nature since kids don’t go deeply into the details. Another colleague, Mufra advocated for more such exhibitions to free the genie of creativity bottled up for whatever reasons.
A shy-looking Muntasir whose pencil sketches enthralled the visitors said he discovered the art of sketching all of a sudden when his elder brother asked for a birthday gift.
A 10th class student, Zainab Zargar said that she felt over the moon and thanked her school for organizing such an event while likening it to a dream-come-true experience.
“This type of event should occur more frequently since, for whatever reason, Kashmir lags behind other places in this area,” she said.
In response to Zainab’s concern, Director of School Education, Dr. Tasaduq Hussain, who visited the exhibition on the second day, said he would assist in planning a larger event in the future.
“Sadly we have not been able to showcase the talent of kids at a higher level and the need of the hour is to propagate this on a larger scale,” he said. “Moreover, the new education policy, NEP-2020, lays emphasis on vocational education and exhibitions such as these can act as a guiding force.”
Nisa shares the director’s skepticism that more needs to be done in this area with a shift in perspective among the parents and the civic society.
“Unfortunately, these days, we are more into materialism than spirituality,” she said. “In reality, we are spiritual beings first, human beings later.”
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