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Students’ art exhibition shows what a public school can and should achieve

By Our Correspondent
February 03, 2019

The students of government schools functioning under the Zindagi Trust, a nonprofit that strives to improve the quality of education, exhibited their artworks at the Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government School on Saturday. It was viewed by thinkers, creatives and celebrities associated with the field of art.

The first round of the ‘Mai Bhi Artist Hoon’ event started at 10am, while the second round at 1pm. Portraits, marker art, experimental assignments merging two animals into one, and works employing different techniques like pointillism, zentangle and optical illusion were just some of the features of the diverse exhibition by students of classes 1 through 9.

One of the artworks that stood out was a series of split portraits that was incredibly close to reality. Visitors, including fine artists, make-up artists, robotics experts and writers, were stunned that they were made by students of class 7.

Another artwork that caught the attention of the viewers was an installation titled ‘Fly Free’, a lopsided arrangement of art room stools, each painted with a beautiful story of its own.

This was one of the creations of the host school’s Art Club that meets once a week and gives students the freedom to paint whatever they want.

This club period runs in addition to a weekly art class for all students, where they learn a set of basic and advanced techniques, mediums as well as art history and major art movements.

The art programme was introduced to the schools by the trust that employs a subject lead to design a customised art curriculum as well as to train government teachers to teach art.

The Creatives’ Roundtable was moderated by architect and interior designer Zain Mustafa. It featured Tazeen Husain, head of communication design at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, advertising guru Faraz Maqsood Hamidi, make-up artist Natasha Khalid of Natasha Salon, and Anam Shakil Khan.

Anam is a visual artist and curriculum designer who established the host school’s art programme as well as developed an art curriculum to be used by all government schools.

She began the roundtable with a presentation on the remarkable journey of the school’s art programme from an empty room to where it stands today.

The thinkers exchanged ideas on the value of art education, making art and art education more accessible, gender biases about and within the arts and, most importantly, the purpose of art education. The consensus, as Natasha put it, was that “art teaches you from a very early age that nothing fits in a box”.

A recurring theme in the discussion as well as from some of the art educators visiting the show later was that art teaches children how to think in a new way and helps them learn how to solve problems creatively, which is the need of the world today.

“A multimillion dollar oil company would always come to artists or advertisers to sell their business; logic will not sell it,” said Hamidi.

The trust manages the two participating government schools, the Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government School and the SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School, and has transformed the infrastructure, enrolment, parental engagement and student development at the institutions.

SMB Fatima Jinnah School art teacher Anna Chohan expressed her pride in the art show: “It’s so uplifting to hear our government school students speak with so much passion and confidence about their works; it motivates us to make every show bigger and better.”

Khatoon-e-Pakistan School Project Manager Anam Palla said: “We believe in giving our students a taste of every discipline, from science and football to chess and art, so that we can help them discover their talents and hone them into the best version of themselves.”

Renowned singer and Zindagi Trust Founder Shehzad Roy was also present at the exhibition, showing guests from the government and the entertainment industry around. “It’s so humbling to see these young girls create such beautiful and creative art,” said Roy.

“For me it reinforces the importance of art in schools. It not only ignites creative thinking but also positively impacts one’s self-esteem and teaches children how to express themselves.”

According to the trust, one of the goals of the art show was to advocate for art to be taught in all government schools. To this end, an advocacy brief for art education was presented by the trust to the education secretary on his visit to the school.

“This exhibition is a message from Zindagi Trust to the Sindh government as well as the public that shows what a government school can and should achieve,” said Zara Hasnain, manager of programmes at the trust. “Our children’s talents are waiting to be found. They need the government’s support through making art an integral part of the curriculum.”

SMB Fatima Jinnah School Project Manager Shahnaz Hunzai said: “I feel that it’s an unconditional source of happiness and self-fulfilment. The moment a child holds the brush, their own worth dawns upon them generating unrelenting contentment and harmony because art heals the inner self.”