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HindustanTimes Mon,14 Jul 2014

Jailbirds have a brush with art

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, October 06, 2012
First Published: 16:12 IST(6/10/2012) | Last Updated: 16:14 IST(6/10/2012)

A bird perched on the branch of a tree and another flock of birds flying in the blue sky in the backdrop. A painting like this wouldn't have evoked much awe among citizens, had it not been because of the painter, Rashid Khan, mastermind of the Bowbazar blast of 1993, which killed a round 69 people and injured at least 40 others.

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"I have seen enough deaths. Not any more. Let all animals live freely in this beautiful world. Don't kill animals. Let them survive. Let the birds fly because they belong to the sky. Don't keep them caged," said Khan, who is serving a life imprisonment term at Alipore Correctional Home.

And Khan was not alone. In all 20 prison inmates (several of them life convicts), two ministers, a group of eminent artists, NGO members and the guardians of the law got together for a unique art camp at Alipore Zoo on Friday. With paints, brushes, canvases and stone slabs they painted and sculpted figures of animals in a bid to convey the message of wildlife conservation through art.

An NGO, Flight to Harmony Foundation, organised the workshop in association with the state jail department. This is not the end however. There is something more to it, and perhaps the most interesting part of it.

"Don't be surprised if you find some of these paintings as calendars or framed and showcased in the drawing room of your neighbour. At least two top-ranking corporate house have approached us to buy these paintings. They are willing to use these as gift items on occasions like the New Year," said IG prison Ranveer Kumar.

The workshop featured four sculptors from remote villages of Purulia. Equipped with chisels and hammers they sculpted figures of animals on stone slabs. "Several of our animals, including the national animal tiger, are facing the threat of extinction.

It may be so that more than 50 years from now any animal might become extinct. The carvings on these stone slabs would then remind us of this day when the animals used to live," said artist-sculptor Chitta Dey, who trains inmates in the correctional homes.

The activity generated tremendous curiosity among visitors who dropped in at the zoo with their families. Several of them clicked snaps of the inmates on their mobiles and camera when they saw the jail inmates in a different role.

Inmate-turned-artists have been participating in several art workshops within the confines of the correctional homes. But such workshops and camps with professional artists such as Uma Siddhanta and Ramananda Bandopadhyay will provide the inmates the right exposure that they need to boost their confidence when they interact with the outside world.


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