Pia Bakshi’s PhilARThropy Connects Art with Pertinent Social Causes
‘All are equal. All are on the same page.’
A young exuberant artist from our workshop in Delhi wrote that in an exercise that was called ‘My message to the world’. There is a lot a PhilARThropy workshop teaches me.
Chetna is a girl I worked with as part of a Teach for India learning centre. She is quiet but she writes a lot. A lot. And when she writes, she makes sure people listen. That is what discovery of a voice does – it empowers.
I am often asked why I call it PhilARThropy.
I think it is the Literary Theory student in me choosing to subvert meaning by using the very arbitrariness of language. But also because a sprinkling of art makes everything a little more visceral, tangible and if I can be bold enough to use the word, beautiful.
And that is why PhilARThropy. It is a social organisation aimed at integrating art with pertinent social causes.
Our work with Self-Help Groups and Women Empowerment Cells in Haryana has affirmed our faith in art influencing lives across age demographics, too.
We have been running art appreciation and creation modules across low-income schools in Delhi NCR and Panchkula with the sole purpose of making the art space accessible and inclusive. Our work with Self-Help Groups and Women Empowerment Cells in Haryana has affirmed our faith in art influencing lives across age demographics, too. We have been working intently on supporting the organisations and classrooms we work with by converting the work generated in our workshops into saleable merchandise. This has not only ensured sustainability for our causes but also ensured an entrepreneurial impetus in our diverse and democratic collective.
So every time Suman Didi suggests that we put up new designs online, I smile a little inside. As a social entrepreneur myself, I understand the importance of supporting not only one’s work but professional interest and to see our collective sharing their art with the world while supporting themselves in the process is a heartening circle to be a part of.
Art is not limited to the interactions with a piece of paper, but with the everyday.
In one class on Self Portraits, Nisha, a precocious wonder, asked me, ’How do you think you look?’
I was caught off guard and said, ‘Okay, I guess’. Nisha clicked her tongue at me and said, ‘Didi, everyone is pretty every day’. I remembered the influence a piece of art, a poem by Bukowski called Bluebird had in my life and I understood what Nisha was feeling. And I realised the comfort art and its subsequent voice had facilitated in the lives of those it has recently touched. It gave them a new way to look at themselves and that made my bluebird chirp happily, again.
You see, art does not have a language because it is one. It is a universal language that is owned by those who choose to converse with it.
My Ma tells me that every time she asked me to write A for Apple, I always drew an apple instead. Fortunately, I was never scolded because that moment from 20 years ago laid the foundation on which PhilARThropy stands. You see, art does not have a language because it is one. It is a universal language that is owned by those who choose to converse with it. Mona Lisa might not talk back but she still speaks – of a time, of an era, of a history forgotten, manipulated or/and represented. The caves of Ajanta might not speak but they tell- they tell a lot about the lives lived in a time disparate from ours. Street art in Shahpurjat, Delhi might not tell but it asks – asks questions about power, ownership, expression, freedom. So they converse in a language that does not discriminate and I like to talk back.
When I see an 80-year-old SHG member paint a wall with a childlike exuberance and an 8-year-old sketch her self-portrait with wisdom beyond her years, I know that a conversation has started.
Can anything be more liberating?
Pia is committed to the cause of literature and art in the creation of inclusive academic spaces evident though her social entrepreneurial venture, PhilARThropy. Pia understands the importance of individual voices in the pursuit of expression.