Every year, in the remote village of Sujata in one of India’s poorest states, Bihar, the Niranjana Public Welfare School organises the Wall Art Festival. Artists from India and Japan spend three weeks in the village producing wall art using the school building as their canvas. In the process, the artists interact with the children and conduct workshops for them. The initiative hopes to help resolve various issues confronting villages in India related to poverty, education and employment through cultural and artistic exchange.
It all started in 2006 when about 50 students from Tokyo Gakugei University donated money, made from working part-time jobs, to an NGO in India to construct a new school building for the Niranjana Public Welfare School near Bodh Gaya. The school was established in response to the poor education system in the region. Funded by overseas donations, the school grew thanks to the hard work of the teachers and volunteers, and by 2010, the school had enrolled around 400 students from nursery to Class 7.
Realising how important it was to provide steady support, the school administration came up with the idea of holding an art festival that would help convey the problems faced by villagers and children in Bihar, aside from popularising art among the students. It was suggested that the white walls of the school be used as a canvas.
Yusuke Asai was one of the artists who participated in the festival three years in row. Inspired by traditional Indian wall paintings, Asai filled the entire walls and ceiling of a classroom with paintings made from mud. Working with children, he collected soil from various sites in the village and mixed them with water to make pigments. Asai also encouraged the children to make hand prints on the wall to symbolise their wish for the future.
After the festival was over, Asai enlisted the children once again, this time to help wash away the mud paintings, returning the material to the soil. By painfully wiping away his own work, Asai sought to teach the children the meaning of life as a cycle in today’s context.
Here are some of the best works of art that can be found on the walls of the school:
This article first appeared on PatnaBeats.