Bodhicariya Project & School

Bodhicariya Project + School, Calcutta, India Claire Guilloton,

In spring 2004, the young teacher Claire Guilloton from France gave together with others a Banyan Project workshop at Bodhicariya Project + School. The workshop was coordinated as far as possible over internet. The results are amazing. The plan was, to continue Claires workshop one year later, but organizational problems made that impossible until now. But it is still the plan to continue..

Some pictures of the project:






Work conditions project: We were there for one month. We were agreed with Bimal Bhikkhu, bouddhist moine, creator of the school and the bording school, that we ‘ll work with children, every days, between 4:30pm to 6pm, after school, and the weekend, when we’ll decided. Wa had area like a big home with tables and chairs.

Children had english education in their school. This language was the only way to communicate with them. So, we decided to note every day on paper, subject, remarks and informations to give to the children. It was the best way for everybody. It was simple for me to see all children work during the activity for explain what was right or what was wrong.

With my note of every day, I can write the unfolding of the project :

1rst activity time: At the beginning, we didn’ know children and we had to make groups very quickly. Finally, we only gave one drawing lesson with all chidren to see those who were interested by this kind of project. We put some fruits on the table and they had to try to draw reality as more fidely as possible, with the good forms and the good lights. Very Simple work.

2nd activity time : For the second time, it was impérative to propose an original topic, but still simple for all children. We asked to the children to draw their neighbour, with differents colors that they saw. With that, group were made easily. One group with originial drawings, the other with girls younger, who did things very carefuly. This in this volunteer’s movement that we explained the project with all the details. Groups were formed in the papers that we put in their disposition.

3rd activity time : We had now to begin the real project. With luck, one holly banyan tree was inside the school. We went, me and my group of ten children, behind it for draw it. At the beginnig, I asked them to draw very simply, but more and more, they had to get closer to see the tree in a different situation, the tree that they will work during one month more.
At the same time, I asked them to write me in a paper that question : What does the banyan tree represent for you, in your heart and in your mind? They had to answer me for some days later. All in english of course.

4th and 5th activity time : Next day, we came back in the area where we had some tables and chairs. We did subject to change that their usual drawings of landscapes and little houses.
Topic : In a big paper, they had to glue a little photography of banyan tree which are in their disposition. They had after to imagine branches continuation with painting, drawing, glue...What they wanted.

Remark: It’s difficult for children to understand that they can release themselves in originals ideas, and different and crasy imagination. It was coming, more and more.

6th activity time : Léa (my friend) was the model. Behind the banyan.
Topic : They had to draw her, imagining her face mixed with tree and branches. The important was to create relation between those two models (she and the tree).

At the end of the workshop, we put all drawings down and we did relations with all drawings,with their lines, and forms.

Remark : Still those problem of liberation. All children stayed in their habits.

7th activity time : We came back in the room.
Topic : We did some group about 3 or 4 persons. On big paper, they had to begin darw in their corner and join their draw after between relation. For that, they had some words at disposition : relations, ways, lines, intersections... They could use all mediums that they wanted.
Remark : Works was not very good but this allowed them to release themselves. Ouf...It was important.

8th activity time : This day, we talk about the next acivity time. Because we wanted to do photography and and it was important to think about that before to let them understand better.
Topic : Mix the body and the body’s tree. Only photo.

9th and 10th activity time :
For this topic, we went outside of the school, to work on banyan bigger and more interesting. With the camera, they had to do three photos : one with only the tree, the second with one body (what body they want : themself, one of their friend, or a lot of people.), and the last photo, they could do one of those two topic.
Remark : The exemple we showed with Léa’s feet was very important (We put some painting and her feet, the same color than the tree and we took after the photo of both together).

With that, they understood very better.They loved this activity. Moreover, they have more ideas from themselves.
11th activity time : The more important.
After taking of words and themes from their text about what they thought about the banyan, I gave for everybody their personal theme. There were eight : fear, ghosts, leaves, banyan eats the other trees, mysterious, immensity, silence, and unity.
They began to think about that, listening carefuly all the explications (We needed at the moment the translater in Chakma (teacher from there) to make them very understood.) I wrote in paper all mediums they could use (text, poems, sound (we had recorder), photography, painting, drawing, dance...)They could use several if they wanted.
Remark : The topic was complicated to understand because it was personal. In this time, I took a lot of time to show them some exemples from my contemporary art book. I gave for all topics one exemple to be in the theme.

12th activity time : This was difficult for them to begin. Most of them didn’t undersand very much what they had to do. Only two saw very good and began something. But it was important to them to begin something, evenf if it was not interesting.

13th activity time : I gave some advices for every child. We continuous what they began last day.

14 th activity time : Today, we were Sunday and we took minibus to go to Calcutta. We went in the botanical garden to observe and worked on one of the biggest banyan tree of the world, forest himself. Children took a lot photos and did a lot of experiences. We stayed something like one hour and an half after the big rain.
After, we went to visit the museum of modern art of Calcutta. It was little poor but it allowed to gave ideas for children about their personal theme. That was the good thing.

15th activity time : The fact of go to Calcutta was good for children’s ideas. But they don’t go really after the painting : some did abstract, or originials drawings. But not more. Next activity time will be in one week. So, I asked them to do one or severals works to continuous their prodject. After my advices.

16th activity time : Most of children did something when I was not here. One or several works. Only one girl do some photography. So, I told to the people was not really good in painting to change and to do something else, like photo or sculpture.

17th activity time : Two children began scultpure on the hood. Others did some photo. The others stayed in a painting but it was a good way because they understood some things. Good ideas... I was really happy. For example, one girl who had twelve, did something like 6 or 7 paintings to do something good on big paper.

18th activity time : Last workshop where all children had to finished their work. For those who are finished, they helped me to do some expained paper for the exhibition.

19th activity time : For the installation of the exhibition. No wall to put works. We did what we could with tables, chairs...
Remark : It was really interesting to think with children about the disposition of works for public understand the project, his evolution, his aim,...
Problem : It was raining and we had to put all inside the temple where there was not a lot of light.

20th activity time : THE EXHIBITION

Tuesday, 31th of July : Today, this is the final day of the project. One exhibition is intalling in the temple of Bodhicaryia, where children are used to say one’s prayers.

At 3:30 p.m., all school come for the private viewing, children and professors.

During 2 hours, a lot of people came to see all children’s works and most of them were very interested. It was good moment for me, for my french friends and for children too. We had a lot of good remarks.

Conclusion : It was really good experience to work with children of those age (10 to 17 years old). They didn’t know nothing about contemporary art. So, it was both easy and difficult to teach them something. Easy because they were very curious about all, and they wanted to disover all mediums. Difficult because art are very changing and they stayed in their idea about that. It was long to wait them release of this idea. I think you understand what I mean, don’t you???

Moreover, this project was perfect for me because it was exactly in this way. So, I thank you very much for let me do that. I hope the results will be good for you. I disovered the banyan too. During one month, I saw only that. And I think that your idea to join all the world with that is wonderful.

Claire Guilloton