Tihar inmates seek freedom through art

August 13th, 2009 - 4:02 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS) A large wooden frame with beams looking like iron rods welcomes you to the art exhibition by inmates of the Tihar jail in the capital. As you peep into the frame, the mirror reflects your face and two words “born innocent” stare back.
Most of the art works in the exhibition called Expressions, which was inaugurated late Wednesday, tell a thousand words with a mere stroke of a brush or a seemingly simple installation.

Whether it’s a painting of a small nude boy, with the words ‘mera baap chor hai’ (my father is a thief) inscribed on his arm, or that of a woman lost in her own thoughts, be it a black and white photograph of a young man holding the iron rods of a gate with the words “I want to go out” or a collage with the words “set me free” - the exhibition offers a peep into the minds of the inmates and their thirst for freedom.

Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal, who had come for the inauguration of the exhibition, said: “The inmates are also human beings and are not different from the rest of us. They are where they are because of the circumstances. It could happen to anyone.

“This exhibition is an effort to give the inmates a chance to express themselves and to look at them from a different point of view. I found three art works especially touching - one was that of a woman whose pain was visible in her eyes, one of a little clock with no hands to say that time has stood still for the inmates and another of a child of an inmate,” Sibal said.

Initiated by the Ramchander Nath Foundation (RNF) and Ojas Art, who started working among the Tihar inmates aged 18-27 in 2007, the exhibition is on at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) till Sep 2.

According to one of the curators of the exhibition, the medium of art can successfully rehabilitate the inmates.

“A released inmate is now working as a part time studio assistant with an artist,” Anubhav Nath, one of the curators said.

To further encourage the inmates, the organisers organised a tour for a small group of contemporary artists inside the jail to interact with the inmates and train them so that they can hone their skills.

Besides the art works, a documentary on the entire art programme inside the jail is also being screened at the exhibition. Filmed by Arjun Pandey, this documentary will be submitted in different film festivals across the world.

“Such initiatives should be replicated by other prisons too,” Sibal added.

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