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Workshop on instilling Critical Thinking through Gond Art conducted at Gurumat Kanya Pathshala

Art has traditionally been perceived as domain of the elite, an essentially useless endeavor only meant as a way to express and experience the world to be enjoyed by the privileged few and practiced by the talented fewer. In reality, practicing art leads to a range of cognitive and behavioral developments which are essential for the holistic growth of a human being. Art, if practiced regularly, can improve one’s cognitive capacity, aid in the germination of human values like kindness and empathy and facilitate the development of quintessential skills like critical thinking. Critical thinking, the ability to analyze and evaluate any situation in a careful manner to reach an unbiased judgment, is a skill crucial to survive and thrive in the complex modern world. JK Arts Foundation, a non-profit, is committed to bring such opportunities to the future citizens of India by making art accessible through the use of disruptive technologies.

On 17th March, 2023, JK Arts Foundation organized a workshop to instill critical thinking

through art at the Gurumat Kanya Pathshala High School located in the Old Heritage Town

locality of Jammu city. Located along the banks of the river Tawi and surrounded by the Shivalik and Trikuta ranges, the city of Jammu has a rich and colorful history going back to antiquity. Founded by the semi-legendary king Jambulochan in the remote past according to local tradition, Jammu served as the capital of numerous kingdoms throughout its history before becoming the seat of the Dogra dynasty and the capital of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Today, Jammu is the second most populous city of the Union Territory, the administrative center of the Jammu division, a center of rice mills and industry and the ‘winter capital’ of the UT.

Gurumat Kanya Pathashala is one of the oldest and most illustrious educational institutions in Jammu and Kashmir. Founded in 1888 CE by a Btahmin widow Shrimati Jeevan Mukta in order to educate girl children and make the miserable lives of widows in nineteenth-century J&K bit easier by equipping them to become self-reliant through education, training and financial assistance, the all-girls school initially faced severe opposition and criticism from the conservative section of the population. Mukta’s dream persevered, however, and by the first half of the twentieth century the school had become the chief standard-bearer for womens’ education in the state. In 1935 CE, the school that had once started at the home of Jeevan Muktaji moved to its current location in the Old Heritage Town of Jammu upon receiving a lease from Maharaja Hari Singh.

More than forty girls, many of them from underserved backgrounds, participated in the session. In the beginning, Geeta Vaishnavi, the founder of JKAF, greeted the kids and narrated a brief history of Indian folk art forms. She continued by explaining the importance of arts in education. Each girl was given an art kit in order to encourage enthusiasm for engaging in the attempt to create artworks. A step by step video tutorial was played to assist the girls with creating artworks. Printouts of Gond artworks to be created were also distributed among them.

In this particular workshop, Gond folk art was used as a medium to inculcate critical thinking among the participants. The Gond tribe is one of India’s largest tribal communities spread across Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tenlangana, Odisha, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. Praticing art is a part of daily life for many members of the tribe as it is believed widely that seeing a good work of art results in good fortune. Based on the art forms of Digna (geometrical patterns to be drawn on walls and floors) and Bhittichitra (scenes from the natural world, daily life and divine and supernatural beliefs to be drawn on walls), the Gond folk art has evolved to become one of India’s iconic indigenous treasures. Using natural ingredients such as charcoal, bean leaves and various types of soil, the Gond people create breathtaking scenes covering daily life, nature, animals, the Mahua tree (venerated as the Tree of Life in Gond tradition)local deities as well as the more universally identifiable deities belonging to the Hindu pantheon.

In the end, the students were elated by their experience in the workshop. The members of the Global Shapers Jammu hub also participated in this session and contributed to the cause of the Foundation by on boarding the students on the JKAF Digital Platform. The school authorities were also quite satisfied with the outcome of the workshop. The Principal, Mr. Swaran Singh, was reported to state, “This was a completely new experience for the children. We look forward to a long term collaboration with JK Arts Foundation.”


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