Tales that travel and transform
Art Vandi, an initiative by the Nalandaway Foundation, takes stories to government schools and encourages students to write their own books
CHENNAI: What is one of the first stories that you listened to in your childhood? Perhaps, about Cinderella, the one who left her shoes behind and found her prince charming, or how seven dwarfs comforted a little girl, Snow White, or about the long-haired Rapunzel. At least once, while listening to or reading these fairytales, we have pictured ourselves as Cinderella or Snow White or Rapunzel. Those were our first exercises of creative thinking, leading to constructing a story of our own with the wildest imaginations.
Bringing the same concept, neatly stored in a four-wheeled vehicle is Art Vandi, a Nalandaway Foundation’s initiative. In this project, a tempo traveller-like vehicle is driven across cities to schools carrying stories and all the things required to open the doors of creativity.
Art reaches you
Started in October 2022, the inception of this project is a story of love and determination. The inauguration ceremony was conducted at a government school in Chengalpattu. Here, confidants of Sriram V, founder of Nalandaway Foundation, gathered to fund the envision. Art Vandi plans to
reach and teach art to those communities who don’t have the means to learn it otherwise.
The vehicle carries a customised, colourful painting. Taking the purpose of the drive to government schools and orphanages, Art Vandi has chart papers, masks, music, screens, and stages. The team calls the vehicle “a step into a magical world filled with colours”. To assist with intervention, it also has built-in sound mixers, a TV, and a computer, among other electronics.
“The vandi will function as a transportable library, a platform for the facilitators, a venue for viewing films, and a repository for artistic supplies, including musical instruments and visual art resources,” shares Vinoth Kumar, manager of Art Vandi.
The facilitator is an art specialist, who is aided by a field coordinator, and curates the framework of the project. The core team of the project is a part of the foundation. Volunteers are also welcome to be a part of Art Vandi. One can check the foundation’s website and social media posts about openings and procedures to apply.
Teaching the students from classes six to eight, the team spends 90 minutes a day with each class for five days. With an average of 30 students per class, the team conducts workshops for four days — starting with the art of puppet-making on the first day; students write a story using the puppets as characters and prepare a storyboard on day 2; they outline and sketch a story book on the third day; and design and complete the storybook on the fourth day.
With Tamil as their main language of communication, the students are given some time to explore ideas most of which are influenced by their own family rituals or village practices. “One of the storybooks was about the temples in the village of Chettipunniyam. The book comprised pictures of the temple and what the kids do when they visit,” shares Vinoth. Besides such stories, the children with the help of the facilitators and volunteers also interview the people of the village. Sharing another storybook inspiration, Vinoth shares, “In one of the schools, the students teamed up to interview the oldest man of the village and wrote about him.”
A book of my dreams
Attending the puppet-making session gives a boost to the students’ imagination. With a mix of stories they have heard at home, reading storybooks referred from the library on the vehicle, and with the guidance of the facilitators, the students not only write a story of their own but also design a storybook from it. “The students use their imagination and observations from the setup they live in and build a story with everyday activities as elements of the story,” points out Vinoth.
The storybooks are put on display on the fifth day. Teachers, parents, and general public visit the school to read the storybook. The students also split into groups and practise for a theatre act. With the upper primary students of the school dressed up in costumes of a specific character, holding microphones and cardboard props, the viewers are in for a theatrical treat.
Creating a storm of art everywhere it goes, the project is established on an output-based intervention for these students. The project also focuses on the students of primary classes, and they lean more towards interaction and kindling an interest in art. Travelling through the remote areas, the project over the last year has benefitted 30 schools and more than 1,850 students from the workshops.
Meeting the vision of the foundation to make courageous, tough, and optimistic individuals through art, Art Vandi envisions “a mobile space that enables immersive artful experiences for children and community members who otherwise do not have access to diverse art experiences,” says Devika Roy, associate director, marketing and communications.
With a path laid before them loaded with confidence, the students are strong enough to put themselves out in the real world and rule it with their skill. Striking one destination after another in Chengalpattu, the Art Vandi is soon going to snake its way through the roads of Chennai and empower, transform and enrich students through art.
The story books collated so far will be exhibited at the Madras Literary Society on December 1&2.