Tuesday, March 10, 2009

B.A Mehta College- Yes We Can

B.A.Mehta Kala Mahavidyalay, Amalsad, in South Gujarat is our last point in the ‘Ways of Seeing Road Trip’. Feroze had left for Kochi on 4th March from Mumbai by the evening flight for attending certain pre-scheduled family matters.

On the way to the college, Pramesh, a young artist from Valsad and an alumnus of B.A.Mehta College joins us. We reach the college by nine thirty in the morning and the students and staff receive us. Though their annual display is dismantled, they have arranged a special display for us.

This college is important as far as the ‘Ways of Seeing Road Trip’ is concerned. It was one of my visits to this college in January 2008 triggered the idea of the present trip. On my first visit, I had found the students of this college very meek and less articulate. They had a lot of problems.

Now the scene looks totally different. The students are confident and their works on display show that they have improved quite a lot. During the last one year, the senior students got several opportunities to travel to the major cities, attend camps and workshops, and communicate with artists.

I do not make any claim on the improvement of the students. The whole credit goes to two people namely Akshay Naik, who heads the Applied Art department and Somu, who regularly goes back to this institute, selects students for doing workshops and site specific works. Whenever he visits galleries and artists’ studios, he collects catalogues and other materials and contributes to the college library.

If someone thinks that I am over-rating and back patting my friend, I would say that they are mistaken. During this trip, we visited around fourteen regional art colleges and from all these institutions we heard the same complaint: no former students come back to the college at least once in a year to inspire the present students. Here, Somu does it and he does it without waiting for institutional support or without aiming at some personal gain.

I would say it is a commendable act.

B.A.Mehta College is not exceptional when it comes to bureaucracy, internal politics and red tapsim. But the students here have learnt to wade through these difficulties. They have seen a different world of art.

When we visited this college last year, the internet facilities were really poor. Now, the college has got high speed internet connectivity and most of the students make use of it. Though the library facilities have not improved considerably, ready reference books have been included in the collection.

I watch a lot of animation movies with my four year old son, Maitreya. He loves ‘Bob the Builder’ movies. The title song of each episode starts like this: ‘Bob the builder/Can we do it?/ Bob the builder/ Yes, we can.’ Sitting amongst the B.A.Mehta College students this jingle keeps resonating in my mind. ‘Yes we can.”

The works of Bhavesh Patel, Pragnesh, Ashvind, Chentan Mehta and Vijay Mcwana, painting students look really strong in terms of skill and content. Pragnesh and Bhavesh has already shown in Mumbai and his works are already in a few collections.

We do a presentation of ‘Vibrant Gujarat Mural Project’ and the ‘Ways of Seeing Road Trip’ for them. The mural project is a point of celebration for them because five artists from this college had participated in the making of the mural in record time. The students receive the mural images with applause.

Many of the students already know about the road trip through www.artroutes.in site. The teachers have been following us for the last fifteen days through the site.

Interestingly, a few students express their wish to set out on similar journeys to understand the kind of art and cultural practice in India.

Here nobody talks about recession. They know the economics of art market. But they are optimistic and energetic. May be that is the reason why I would like to come back to this college at least once in a year.

The board examination is on and it is time for us to leave.

We are winding up our tour. Now we drive towards Baroda from where we part our ways temporarily.

The car speeds through the high way. From the dashboard of the car, a rose flower presented by the students and teachers of the B.A.Mehta College, smiles at me.

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