A meaningful life – this is what we look for in art, in its smallest dewdrops as in its unleashing of the tempest. We are at peace when we have found it and uneasy when we have not.-Bjornstjerne Bjornson
I still remember the chilly Wednesday afternoon back in 2012, when Peaceworks—an initiative of The Seagull Foundation for the Arts—was first introduced to me. The unique concept and the work—telling stories—attracted me the most. Well, when something attracts me I try to get myself involved in it and after four-and- a- half years I am still associated with PeaceWorks, in whatever little way I can contribute to the programme.
Share Stories Open Minds is a project under the PeaceWorks umbrella that uses the powerful art of storytelling with children from underprivileged backgrounds. This project is completely volunteer based and is run in partnership with the Kolkata police project Nabadisha and non profits like Women’s Interlink Foundation, Anandan and Hamari Muskan. The volunteers associated with Peaceworks come from all walks of life- school/college students, teachers, home-makers, corporate professionals and the like. They share one hour from their busy schedules every week to conduct storytelling sessions in different parts of the city.
The project aims to take stories, something that many of us take for granted, to children who may not have access to them. Storytelling is a powerful tool, which sparks the imagination of the listener, stimulates critical thinking skills and encourages children to think about topics and ideas without actually imposing it on them!
The Share Stories Open Minds project also involves art and theatre. Every now and then the volunteers conduct an art session with the children. The theme might be connected to the stories that they have heard, or one based on the community they live in and so on. The children are given complete freedom when it comes to how they want to present their art and what medium they wish to use. Sometimes classes on origami and mask making are held. These artworks are displayed in the annual storytelling festival- GolpoMela. Theatre sessions are also conducted in the centres where the children put up short skit, which they write themselves or adapt from sources and present to an audience under the guidance of their teachers/ volunteers. The Share Stories Open Minds project also hosts various workshops for the volunteers so that they can revise their skills of storytelling and learn new techniques to incorporate in their sessions.
This year, PeaceWorks is privileged to welcome Performers Without Borders, to perform for the children of the Amherst Police Station centre on March 29, 2017 from 3:30 pm onwards. They will show that storytelling can be done in a variety of ways. Performers Without Borders are a travelling group of performing artists who believe in the power of performing arts as an important tool of learning and inculcating values. They work with children in India, Nicaragua and Kenya and have been teaching circus in India for nine years. Many of the children they have worked with and taught have gone on, in turn, to teach others their skills.
If you would like to be a part of the project then you can contact PeaceWorks at firstname.lastname@example.org.