Every year, in the remote village of Sujata in one of India’s poorest states, Bihar, the Niranjana Public Welfare School organises the Wall Art Festival.
Artists from India and Japan spend three weeks in Sujata, producing art on the walls of the school’s building. In the process, the artists interact with the children and conduct workshops for them. The initiative hopes to help resolve various issues confronting villages in India, such as poverty, education, and employment, through cultural and artistic exchange.
It all began in 2006, when about 50 students from Tokyo Gakugei University donated money earned from working part-time with an NGO in India to construct a new school building for the Niranjana Public Welfare School near Bodhgaya, Bihar. The school was established in response to poor educational facilities in the region. Funded by overseas donations, the school grew under the hard work of teachers and volunteers. By 2010, it had enrolled around 400 students from nursery to class 7.
Realising how important it was to provide continued support, the school administration came up with the idea of holding an art festival that would help convey the problems faced by villagers and children in Bihar, besides popularising art among students. It was suggested to use the white walls of the school as a canvas.
One of the artists who participated in the festival three years in a row was Yusuke Asai. Inspired by traditional Indian wall paintings, Asai filled all the walls and ceiling of a classroom with paintings made using mud. Working with children, he collected soil from various sites in the village and mixed them with water to make pigments. Asai encouraged the children to make hand-prints on the wall as a sign of their hopes for the future.
After the festival, Asai enlisted the children again; this time to help wash away the mud paintings, returning the material to the soil. Through this experience, Asai was teaching them the meaning of life as a cycle in today’s context, by painfully wiping away his own paintings.
Here are some of their works: