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Using art in Tamil Nadu.

Why do so many people draw, paint, act, dance, make sculpture or play music? Why do you like art? Is it just fun to play with materials like paint, clay and crayons? Or do you feel good after having done creative work. "Hey, look! I made this!"

Art can help you think about an experience that is difficult to understand. Making art can sometimes help you think about experiences you do not want to talk about. When you are sad, making art can help to make you feel better.

It was for these reasons that I joined ICAF to volunteer in India. I work with ICAF's partner in India, Chandana Art Foundation International. We offered healing arts workshops to tsunami-affected children in Nagapattinam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The tsunami changed life in Nagapattinam, a historical city famous for its temples and statues. Many families have been living in "relief shelters" since December 2004. The shelters are very small and there is only one room for each family. Paper, pencil and art supplies are expensive, and many children cannot afford such items.

We started with a workshop for girls on drawing and painting. Some students were using crayons for the first time, and nearly all of them were using watercolors for the first time. Learning how to use the materials made the girls happy. They appeared more confident after gaining a new skill.

Our second workshop was a free-for-all in which students could paint, draw, act, sing, or dance. The theatre groups started doing plays on stories that children had told them. The plays included the songs that the children knew. The children learned how to make masks with baloons and paper mache, and they used these masks in the theatre. Other students learned how to make portraits, thread painting, clay sculpture, sandcasting and paper art.

Each student reacted to the tsunami in a different way. Some students kept painting tsunami scenes one after another; others did not even like to talk about the tsunami.

Why was Riswana always drawing banana trees?

Riswana explained that she had a banana tree she loved to tend every day. The tsunami swept away the tree. Her family had to live in a shelter with 400 other families. There was no place for a private garden.

When they get a new house, Riswana wants to grow a new banana tree. Meanwhile, drawing the banana tree helps her reflect on a happy memory and look forward to the future.
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Title Annotation:InFocus
Author:Marcus, Gabrielle
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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