At the end of her art workshop with a local children’s NGO, one of the students at a civic school in Jogeshwari stood up and told a Sasha Sicurella, that this was the first time he had met someone where language wasn’t a barrier.
“The experience transcended language, it was both visual and emotional,” said Sicurella, (33) the education director at New York’s Omi International Arts Centre, a sculpture park and artist residency centre. Sicurella was in the city for three weeks on an art education project, I Am: India.
“The idea of the whole project was to explore individuality and identity among children from underprivileged backgrounds,” she said.
Sicurella worked with nearly 120 children from NGOs such as Akanksha, CHIP, Nanhi Kali and Mobile Creche on a series of self-portraits — both drawing and photography.
Giving the children a camera, she taught them how to use the timer to click a self-portrait.
Many of the works were exhibited at Kala Ghoda’s Hacienda Gallery on Monday. “It was great to expose the kids to the camera and to have them take their own portraits. It was very empowering,” said Sicurella. With a Masters in Fine Arts from New York University, the Canadian-born Sicurella has worked with schools and children for the past ten years.
“I try to work with contemporary art to teach a way of thinking, about yourself and how you relate to the world,” she said.
In the run-up to working with Indian children, Sicurella tested the waters with two pilot projects — I Am: New York and I Am: Paris. She is also likely to come up with two other projects — I Am: Ethiopia and I Am: Hong Kong.
But this isn’t the end of the road for I Am: India.
“The roots of this project for me are here,” she said. “The need here is great and the community has been extremely supportive and wonderful. This was an unforgettable time.”