In jail, will paint: expressions from Tihar | india | Hindustan Times
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In jail, will paint: expressions from Tihar

There are art shows and art shows, but this one promises to be different. Starting this Wednesday, August 12, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) will host ‘Expressions’, an exhibition of paintings by inmates of Tihar Jail.

india Updated: Aug 07, 2009 23:03 IST
Gargi Gupta

There are art shows and art shows, but this one promises to be different. Starting this Wednesday, August 12, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) will host ‘Expressions’, an exhibition of paintings by inmates of Tihar Jail.

The artists here are all convicts and undertrials from jail number five (Tihar has nine central jails) which lodges male prisoners aged 18 to 21 — boys really, most of them from villages and towns in the hinterland, poor, barely literate. But you’d never guess from the polished execution of the paintings, the complexity of thought that went into their creation.

Pawan, 23, from Purnea in Bihar, has been an inmate for five years. He first started painting in 2005, inspired by his
cell-mate Ramdhani who would paint night and day. Today Pawan is an accomplished painter, one of two inmates who conduct the painting classes held inside a wire enclosure, showing the 15 or so novices how to sketch and shade, and mix colour.

There is also Chaitali Dey, an art teacher, who comes once in every week. The entire project is run by an NGO, Ramchander Nath Foundation, which is also putting up the show at IGNCA. The Foundation has even got eminent artists like Rameshwar Broota, Raghu Rai and Gigi Scaria, to conduct day workshops. “Art can be a powerful tool for reformation and rehabilitation,” says Anubhav Nath of the foundation.

It is, one realises, from the rapt attention on Pawan’s face as he sketches a hand on one painting that someone else will colour. “What else is there to do? If we stay in cells all day, we are overwhelmed by disturbing thoughts. At least I am learning something here,” he says.

His hopes aren’t too far-fetched. “Two of our convicts have got jobs for the artistic skills they learnt here," informs Sunil Gupta, law officer at Tihar. “One Sanjay, is working with a transporter painting signs on trucks; the other Sameer is similarly employed with Jindal Saw.” Another inmate, Nath informs, has been employed with a senior Delhi artist as his assistant. In more ways than one, for the convicts, art is their only salvation.