YOGART STUDIO :: With Love, Delhi!
My day began like any other. I awoke just past 5AM since I’ve been having a difficult time adjusting to the time difference. I read for a bit, rolled out the ol’ mat for some morning yoga, dressed and went out for breakfast. My breakfasts’ here have consisted of masala tea, a tall refreshing lassi and paratha, fried bread stuffed with potato (alu paratha). It was only 8AM but the temperature was already at 34°C –almost refreshing compared to the usual 42°C+ that it consistently hit by 11AM each day. I hailed a tuk tuk and negotiated a price –I was on my way to the National Gallery to check out their contemporary art collection. Little did I know that I was about to have a very reviving morning that would cement my love of Delhi
I arrived at the National Gallery at 10AM when the gates opened. The gallery was once the residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur and now contained an extensive collection of contemporary Indian art. I savoured the air-conditioning as I took in the exhibits which mostly focused on post-1930’s works. As I was about to leave, to my delight, a class of first graders arrived for a field trip. Dressed in their ninja-turtle-shade-of-green uniforms they began making their way through the gallery with their teachers and a museum educator. I lurked in the background eager to see how their guide would engage the students in discussion. No longer being able to contain my excitement, I introduced myself to the museum educator and explained that we shared the same profession. I asked if I could lead the children in a discussion. My enthusiasm was emanating and I literally had to choke back a squeal when she invited me to take over the tour. I felt like I had arrived My face lit up and I instinctively switched gears from tourist to Early Childhood Educator.
Earlier I had observed that the children were equally distracted and excited. Understandably! After all –a day out of school allows for a different kind of learning to take place. Experiential learning allows for the 5 senses to take over and absorb information in such a profound manner that sitting at a desk could never equal. The teacher informed me that the class was studying portraiture so I did a quick scan of the room to find an artwork in a spacious area. There were approximately 2 dozen kids that I was about to lead in a discussion and I wanted to make sure I had enough space for everyone to be able to see the artwork and feel comfortable to participate.
I began by asking the children to describe the painting. I let the children know that even if they didn’t know who the artist or the individual in the painting was that it was OK to guess. Did I know anything about Indian contemporary art? Nope. At least not much beyond what I had just taken in that morning. But you see, that’s the beauty of art. You don’t have to have a BFA and be well versed in art history to learn and gain an appreciation. Don’t get me wrong, context is invaluable, but the point I’m trying to make is that educators should not feel intimated to just go for it And the focus after all was on portraiture and not a specific artist or technique.
Our discussion included observations that the man in the painting was adorned in jewels –so he must be very wealthy. He had a uniform on and what appeared to be a crown –so he was very important. He also had a sword at his side and a badge worn over his heart –so he must be someone who worked in the military or law enforcement. We concluded the discussion by highlighting his body language. He was seated in a chair. I asked the children how they thought he felt -did he look sad, happy, sleepy, etc. They quickly exclaimed that he looked proud! That he was sitting up very tall and his chest was puffed out. I asked the kids to show me with their bodies how they look when they feel proud. I stared in utter joy at the group of first graders as they straightened their backs, puffed out their chests and held their head high. The museum educator concluded the discussion by explaining that all the portraits had clues that would help reveal the identity of the people. The children were then asked to choose a portrait to sketch. I thanked them for their time, said my goodbyes, and exchanged contact info with the museum educator. I made my way towards the exit –feeling proud, with my head held high