Diary of an Intern: Nusrat Ahmed. Princeton. New Jersey - The Art Workshop Day

I think art is one of the most powerful forms of self-expression and rediscovery. Whether it’s painting or coloring, the colors that are chosen, the designs that are made, and the lines that are formed, they all tell a story. 
 
During my second field visit, I brought with me drawing pads, oil pastels, and paints for each of the children. The children all sat next to each other but it was quickly apparent that there was a rift between two of the women. 
 
I tried to pacify them but behind me another quarrel was at it's peak. A boy and an elderly woman had begun arguing over the art sets. I had asked everyone to keep the art sets and bring it with them the next time they came. In fact, I made all of them promise me they would. But the women had scoffed and accused one of the boys that the minute I would leave, he would go and sell it for money. 
The boy stood up, fuming with anger, and defended himself. The woman picked up her things and walked away and the boy sat down quietly.
 
 
If there was anything I learned from that argument is that it isn't easy to grasp the attention of street children. Most of them are wild, accustomed to the free lifestyle they are in. If you shelter them, some of them seek to escape. I realized that to get them to express themselves in their art I needed to make them fall in love with not only the art, but themselves in the context of their surroundings. 
And so I asked them to first paint with their eyes closed, and so many of them were insecure. 
They didn’t even attempt to color in fear of drawing badly. And so I held their hand and we both closed our eyes and drew. 
 
I held onto a woman's shaking hands and outlined a small flower. I really felt that at that moment I was able to connect with them individually. 
 
Some of the children were able to draw amazingly. They drew flags, flowers, and their names. I think they enjoyed painting the most as many of them had never used a brush to paint before. 
       
One of the boys, Muqtasim, had quickly become my favorite. The minute he saw me he asked me “Why do you smile so much?” Considering that his own smile never left his face, I was able to ask him the same question. Muqtasim really enjoyed painting and followed my directions. 
 
Afterwards, I gave out chocolate filled bags to each of the children. They were American chocolates so they were really excited to get them. I really enjoyed spending the day with them and I feel like they did too. 
 
For my next visit, I'm bringing along with me games and snacks. I hope I can teach them kick-ball and they can teach me some cricket! :) 
 
- Nusrat Ahmed. 
 
 
 

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