Reimagining a pollution-free sky

This project offers youngsters an understanding of air toxicity through the images they click of the sky above them
Images by Anvi Dalmia
Images by Anvi Dalmia

I used to go to my nani’s house, which is in a village. The sky there was beautiful and calming. When I used to be upset, I would sit on a khaat [a traditional wooden bed] and stare at the sky,” recalls Nirali (15), a Greater Noida resident. Nirali, who doodled on an image she clicked of the sky, is one among the several children who have submitted similar images to the project ‘Hues of Blue’.

The ongoing initiative prompts young people to reflect on the many aspects of the sky, gives them an opportunity to explore their relationship with air toxicity, and engage with key questions of air pollution and ecological crisis.

‘Hues of Blue’ is helmed by Analina Sanyal and ThinkArts—a Kolkata-based non-profit organisation that supports children to engage with arts. “A teenager would be subjected to changes in the air and the impact of climate crisis more than us. They have to live with this longer. We wanted to create a programme to listen to their lived experiences and what they feel about it,” shares Sanyal, programme manager with ThinkArts and project head of ‘Hues of Blue’.

A collection of images of the sky submitted
by children from various parts of India
to ‘Hues of Blue’.

Portraits of an unclear sky
India has been striving for better air quality, and to do so, it formally joined the United Nations Environment Programme-hosted Climate & Clean Air Coalition, and launched the National Clean Air Programme in 2019. Initiatives such as ‘Hues of Blue’ intend to bring additional value to the larger discourse crafted by various government and non-governmental institutions, as it spares no effort to involve children in this conversation. The project seeks to demonstrate the role that arts engagement can play in combating the climate crisis.

An effective engagement method as part of this project, includes urging youngsters to share images of the sky with them. “We asked young people to explore the sky above them, take a photograph, and then check the Air Quality Index of their place. The idea was to make them think on the lines of air toxicity and juxtapose it [this thought] with the sky around them,” explains Ashmita Ghosh, communications coordinator, ThinkArts.

The contributions they’ve received till date exhibit multi-faceted views of children along with them describing what the sight of an azure sky makes them feel as well as their concerns about the sky turning grey. The project has welcomed entries from across the country, and so, the bigger idea is to examine how “multiple different skies experience the same environmental and ecological crises”.

The team at ‘Hues of Blue’ has also organised a few virtual workshops to help young people learn about environmental issues, imagine alternate realities, and thus create their own artistic and practical responses to the climate crisis.

The Project is funded by Khoj International Arts Association (KHOJ) as part of their three-year-long project ‘Does The Blue Sky Lie?: Testimonies of Air’s Toxicities’. “Our support for Hues of Blue came from our understanding that it is very important to treat young people as stakeholders in conversations about the environment,” concludes Niyati, curator and programme manager, KHOJ.

Heavy masses of fog sail past my window, tumbling and breaking as they move on. They seldom stop to admire the world they glide over, almost lazy under the blue sky. These clouds are here every day and gone the very next, nothing out of the ordinary. But I watch them.
– Nirali (15), Greater Noida

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The New Indian Express