Images of reality – Exhibition by children was a vivid portrayal of lurking dangers.

The exhibition by children was a vivid portrayal of lurking dangers.

The Hindu
Dec. 25, 2004

Is there anyone who can hear our cry?

The children of Semankupam, a village in SIPCOT Cuddalore held a painting exhibition recently in the Alliance Francaise, to present their struggle against pollution. The pictures titled “Images Of Pollution” and drawn by 12 to 14-year-old artists, were stark reminders of an ecological disaster waiting to happen, which in its wake will affect people.

SIPCOT is located about 200 km south of Chennai. With about 25 chemical or related industries in the industrial complex, 15 villages and 20,000 residents are living within the impact zone of the industries. The area has a pollution history of 20 years, from about 1984 to 2004. Trained village monitors have sampled SIPCOT air and found chemicals that affect eyes, the respiratory system, the central nervous system, liver and kidneys. Children here suffer from watering eyes, chest pain, dizziness and more importantly intelligence deficits and affected physical development. With precious little being done to address the issues here, the children have come forward to get the message across and what more powerful medium than art?

Studies of protest

Using natural paints like clay and handmade paper mounted on pieces of used sari, the young artists produced artwork that compel attention by their raw sincerity of emotion expressed vividly in the blurred outlines, streaked with charcoal, splashed with roadside clay. One big eye tellingly staring and a mouth gaping wide with apparent horror at a world being enveloped with pollution were forceful. Obviously, these are young people living lives very removed from familiar city lifestyles. So, there is an inherent sense of tragedy in the sun, which unlike usual ones peeping out between mountains, heralding a new day, is seen with teeth bared in a sinister grin, no longer shining on the solitary hut.

Most of the drawings can be called quite abstract in their concept. Smoke is a recurring leitmotif. Blodsow, an artist from Chennai held a workshop with them to shape their talent.

Make no mistake. These are not the pretty pictures that kids draw. They are portraits of a life threatened. They are reactions and strong ones at that to another Bhopal waiting to happen.

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Images of reality – Exhibition by children was a vivid portrayal of lurking dangers.
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