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Art Action – Community Creativity and Concern

By Tshewang Dendup

The future of Bhutan is bright….. The future of Bhutan is full of promise…..
The future of Bhutan is a beautiful …..
These are the thoughts that overwhelmed us, the Samdrupjongkhar Initiative (SJI) and the Voluntary Artists Studio of Thimphu (VAST), during an art camp held in Dewathang, Samdrupjongkhar , January 2012.
Dressed in their ghos and kiras, sixty three youth from Dewathang and nearby areas descended with diligence on the campus of the Dewathang Primary School to absorb the offerings of the Art Camp. Moving with the ease of a seasoned instructor, Azha Kama, the founder of VAST was an instant hit with the youngsters, producing bursts of laughter with his endearing personality and gushes of sighs with the flourish of his master strokes.

Youth Art Camp, Dewathang, 2012

On the first day, Azha Kama and his team from VAST Thimphu steered the youth of Dewathang to produce installation art from garbage collected from the surrounding areas. When the mayor of Samdrupjongkhar arrived to join us for lunch, he couldn’t miss the display of the students’ work. There was a chair made from scraps, a dust bin fashioned from abandoned waste and robotic creatures created from pet bottles that had earlier scarred and trashed the otherwise scenic land of Dewathang.
The students were taught using a wide array of art materials that included the humble pencil on paper to the lush and luxurious marriage of acrylic on canvas. Along with ten young VAST members, Azha Kama was able to rope in veteran artist Sukhbir Biswa from Thimphu. As Mr. Sukhbir displayed his prowess in recreating the natural grandeur of Bhutan on canvas, the students sat enraptured, watching a new world unfolding in front of them. A world of colours with names like Antwerp Blue and Burnt Sienna, a world awaiting to be explored in charcoal or water colour, a world of creativity.
Thanks to Maiyesh Tamang, a VAST member who is studying at Kala Bhavan in Visva Bharati University in Shantiniketan, we were able to bring three talented artists from the reputed academy which is home to the vision and spiritual legacy of the great Rabindranath Tagore. Tre from Meghalaya, Sajji from Kerala and Tshering from Himachal admired the rugged beauty of our land. During classes, they glided from table to table guiding the students, throwing in words of encouragement, thumbs ups for a jobs well done and rounds of applause for tasks completed on time. In a fitting conclusion to the art classes, Maiyesh, Tre, Sajji and Tshering supervised the production of more than a hundred elephants which were sculpted by the students from locally available clay.

Youth Art Camp, Dewathang, 2012

Right from the moment we decided to hold the art camp, we at SJI wanted waste control and the philosophy of zero waste living to be the theme underpinning the art camp. As development reaches the nooks and corners of Bhutan, waste control is now a very visible issue of concern. We knew that in VAST, we had a partner that shared our concern in forming a sustainable waste control initiative in the kingdom. While we provided vegetarian meals with as much local produce as our resources allowed, we asked students and instructors alike to bring their own plates and mugs. We also served tea in locally made bamboo mugs thus we generated as little waste as possible. With the little waste we did create, we made sure that it was segregated into paper, plastic etc.
The students who took part in the camp are eager to continue with their new found zeal of creativity and concern to keep their community litter free. For a start, they have started collecting the plastic waste at home. SJI will be welcoming them once a month and the venue will be the campus of Rinpoche’s Shedra, the Chokyi Gyatso Institute. Armed with scissors, the students will shred the plastics and confine them into the wombs of sacks made from left over textiles from tailor shops. These handmade cushions will be one of their solutions to tackle the widespread menace of plastic and become an offering, a zero waste offering, to the shedra.

Youth Art Camp, Dewathang, 2012