More than just crayons

Mid Day - - FEATURE -

BENITA FER­NANDO WHILE So­ham Ka­pa­dia is yet to pin down his ‘favourite’, there are two artists whose works have res­onated with him. “I like the Mona Lisa for its brush strokes and MF Hu­sain’s Horse se­ries for his use of warm colours,” says the nine-year-old. At his Ne­pean Sea Road res­i­dence, we are flip­ping through his most re­cent art book, in which he has painted pieces in­spired by Ed­vard Munch and SH Raza. His six-and-a-half-year-old twin sis­ters, Vi­hana and Vedita, pot­ter around ex­cit­edly with their art books and lead us to a paint­ing hang­ing near their din­ing ta­ble. “The women are play­ing Holi in this pich­wai and, if you look re­ally closely, you can see the threads of the cloth,” says Vi­hana.

Be­yond school and play­ground ac­tiv­i­ties, the three Ka­pa­dia chil­dren at­tend select art ap­pre­ci­a­tion ses­sions across the city; they have re­cently fin­ished classes with Aashika Cunha, as­sis­tant cu­ra­tor with the Je­hangir Ni­chol­son Art Foun­da­tion and an in­de­pen­dent art ed­u­ca­tor. Their mother, Man­jari Gar­o­dia Ka­pa­dia, a for­mer strat­egy con­sul­tant, says, “I wanted to en­rol them in an art class that went be­yond the ‘kunji’ — a Delhi term for exam study guides — method. They have learnt how to draw shapes and use colours. But, what’s next?” Look­ing out for classes that lead chil­dren to bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate the vis­ual arts, Man­jari has now en­rolled So­ham in a ‘Meet the Mas­ter’ se­ries by The Art1st Foun­da­tion, an art ed­u­ca­tion plat­form. The first work­shop in the se­ries, to be con­ducted in con­junc­tion with ex­hi­bi­tions at con­tem­po­rary art gallery Tarq in Co­laba, took off yes­ter­day.

The art hobby class is no longer as we knew it — an hour long, draw­ing play­grounds and but­ter­flies. It has be­come more so­phis­ti­cated but re­tains the flavour of what a hobby is sup­posed to be. Cunha, who men­tors about five chil­dren in each batch at her Mal­abar Hill res­i­dence, says that these ses­sions sit some­where be­tween the reg­u­lar af­ter-school draw­ing classes and the pro­fes­sional art ones. “It is not a copy-draw class; I teach chil­dren about artists, their tech­niques and themes. And, I never give home­work, which ceases to make such classes fun,” she says.

One of her stu­dents is eight-yearold An­jani Lakhani, who proudly shows us an oil pastel cre­ation of two aliens un­der a starry sky. It is not hard to guess which Vin­cent van Gogh mas­ter­piece has in­spired the piece. An­jani of­fers us trivia that goes well be­yond name-drop­ping — how Hu­sain spent money on art ma­te­ri­als rather than shoes, how van Gogh’s black was a deep blue, and why Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe’s Red Canna is her all-time pick. “We found that most draw­ing classes aren’t child driven and do not al­low them the free­dom of ex­pres­sion. Why does an ele­phant al­ways have to be grey? Why can’t it be pink?” says An­jani’s mother, a Montes­sori school­teacher. Sonal Sancheti and Rahul Gore, prac­tis­ing ar­chi­tects in Kalina, have sim­i­larly en­rolled their teenage daugh­ters in art ses­sions, such as those con­ducted by The Pomegranate Work­shop. A cou­ple of weeks ago, Sonal hosted a bunch of her friends and their chil­dren for an In­dian art his­tory ses­sion by Ritu Khoda, founder of The Art1st Foun­da­tion. Khoda has co-au­thored two books — Raza’s Bindu and Eye Spy In­dian Art. Us­ing the lat­ter, Khoda led the par­tic­i­pants through a two-hour-long ses­sion that led them through In­dian art move­ments, right from Raja Ravi How­ever, is the new-age art ap­pre­ci­a­tion class a lux­ury? All the par­ents strongly dis­agree. Man­jari, for in­stance, ra­tions pocket money for her chil­dren ev­ery week and asks them to buy art sup­plies they like. An­jani’s mother be­lieves that chil­dren just need the op­por­tu­nity to go wild on pa­per and can­vas, so why not indulge them? Sonal says, “Work­shops in mu­se­ums are free most of the time. And, as par­ents, we keep in mind that en­rolling them in these art classes costs less than two hours spent at the mall.”

The one thing that par­ents and men­tors keep in mind is deal­ing with nudes and con­tro­ver­sies. The chil­dren are kept safe from all the hul­la­baloo sur­round­ing Hu­sain’s more con­tro­ver­sial pieces; they will learn, of them even­tu­ally, say the par­ents. Nudes pose a spe­cial prob­lem, but one that An­jani’s mother isn’t too wor­ried about. “We were at The Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art (MOMA, New York) ear­lier this year and An­jani saw some nudes by Edgar De­gas. She just went, ‘Oh, that’s not nice.’ We’ll talk about it at some point,” she says.

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