Students of a government school in Kerala paint a mural on their library wall

The mural on the wall of the library at Government Model Residential School
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A bunch of students at the Government Model Residential School for boys at Wadakkanchery in Thrissur have transformed their library wall into a striking work of art. Over three days, they painted a fascinating mural of the forest, its people, and birdlife on the 12×20-foot wall. 

Students painting the mural

Students painting the mural
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

About 18 students from classes V to X worked on the wall — drawing the scenes and sights they had grown up seeing. Sreepadmanabhan P of Class V, who his friends and teachers fondly call Pappu, took on the task of drawing the trees, because he is especially fond of them, says Priya KG, the art teacher of the school. “He hails from Attappady and he loves drawing trees and the forest. Here, too, he has depicted it in great detail, including the different birds that are found in the forest,” she adds. 

The entire mural has been done in just three colours — terracotta, white and black. “With just four litres of paint (the three colours combined), these children have created an authentic artwork that reflects their passion for art,” says Priya. 

The school, managed by the Tribal/Social Welfare Department, has students from the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities from various parts of Kerala. Many of them belong to forest dweller communities. “The pictures these children draw are often a window to their world — their beliefs, traditions and customs,” says Priya, who has been instrumental in ushering them into the world of art. 

When she joined the school two years ago, she found pictures drawn using stone on the rocky patches outside the school. “These were pictures of elephants, trees, birds and people,” she says. “Some of them were truly exceptional. I learned that many of these talented children had never used colour or paint.”

Priya bought them paints and brushes to experiment with and instead of teaching them rules, she let them express their feelings and imagination unfettered. They were given another library wall on the ground floor of the school to experiment. “The idea was to help them get acquainted with paint and its possibilities. By the time they did this second wall, they had lost their inhibitions and were confident about using paints,” says Priya. 

Sometimes, when they don’t get the anatomy of a human or animal figure right, they go to Priya, who advises them to let the paintings be. “So what if one eye is smaller than the other; or one limb is shorter than the other? There is no one absolute ideal of perfection,” she says.

In 2023, some of the students from the school led by Priya visited Kochi to paint a mural at the Kashi Hallegua House at Jew Town in Mattancherry, as part of an exhibition, Sea: A Boiling Vessel, presented by Aazhi Collective. “That was a truly enriching experience for these children. Many of them had never been to a city. The fact that they were travelling to a city to paint was a recognition for their talent.”

Art has not just helped the children express themselves, but it has helped in the overall development of their personality, observes Priya.

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