The SAARC Fish in SAU

Hello! Am I talking to Meenakshi?

Yes, speaking.

This is Dr. Shweta and I am calling from South Asian University. we met in India Habitat Centre during your exhibition last year.

Okay, You are Professor in SAU. Right?

Yes and I am calling you regarding the artologue project.

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This was a phone call which Meenakshi received few days back. We never thought that Shweta or for that matter anyone will remember the Artologue exhibition after more than eight months and ask us to come and paint in a University.

But thats what happened. Dr. Shweta, a professor at the International Relations Department, is a connoisseur of art who collects art works from all the galleries, museums and places she visits. “I have a personal little collection of arts”, she sheepishly admitted. Shweta invited Mee and Jey to paint at SAU with the freshers in the university for the Welcome Day. Meenakshi had a meeting and everything was finalized, but there was a glitch.

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The vice president of SAU, Sasank Perera was not very convinced with the whole idea of Artologue’s painting with ‘non-artist’ students. Due to some engagements of Mr. Perera, no meeting with him could be arranged until the day painting took place. Though he did express his concern about what can be done on a canvas with many students in a couple of hours.

Mr. Perera is not only a Professor (sociology) but a keen observer of visual culture who loves to sketch and photograph. In his own words he is just a creative person not a Professional artist.

When Meenakshi and Jey came to know about his reservations, Jey was a bit nervous. In the morning of the assigned day, he asked Meenakshi – “You can pull it off…right?”.

Meenakshi smiled back and said, ‘It is difficult to explain what we do. The best way for us has been to do it and let people perceive our work in their own capacity. So we will do what we do. Lets just do it.’’

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With those words we left for the University and set the stage with 7X17 ft canvas and 11 bottles of colours with the help of volunteers form Bio-technology departments. This time we had an idea about what to do on the canvas as we had just few hours and lots of participants.

SAU is an International university for students of SAARC countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Nepal,Bhutan) so we decided to make 8 fishes.

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Meenakshi has proposed few other ideas but in the meeting, the teachers decided on a big fish with seven fishes. So Meenakshi made the basic sketch on the canvas and students got the invitation to paint.

More than ten students came on the canvas and started colouring the fishes. Once they did the first coat of colours, Meenakshi helped them in making various designs on the first coat. students from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh painted but the most excited lot was from Afghanistan.

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Most of them were painting for the first time and spilled colors all over their clothes but they still wanted to paint. Many students stopped to see and click pictures.

As the 8 fishes were being given final touches, the Big FISH too was taking shape. Students stood still and wondered that they never thought all the fishes are making a Big fish.

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Then came the fun part…the SEA. Meenakshi poured 4 bottles of colour on the empty corners of canvas and asked all to mix it on the canvas in a particular way to give it a feel of energetic waves.

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Many students joined in and the sea began to spread on the canvas from corner to corner. And the painting took final form. All the students were happy. Their reaction were like -“we never thought that first day in the college will be so much fun.”

“I never painted in my life but I loved it today.”

“Its a very unique concept. never thought that we could make something so beautiful in few hours.”

“The idea of participating us was really nice.”

“After today, I am going to buy some colours and brush and start painting. I am feeling so happy.”

We were also happy but we were waiting for one and only Mr Sasank Perera.

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After we finished, Dr. Shweta and Mr Perera came. He took a close look and said, “It is good. The big fish idea…let me tell you that I was very skeptical about this whole endeavour but it really came good.”

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We heaved a sigh of relief. You rarely find such honest people who speak their mind. He was surprised to know all the detailed works and textures of fishes were done by the students. We just provided them props which they used in their own ways.

Words of praise from someone who was skeptical and now praising really made us feel happy. Shweta, who invited us must have felt good too. She had faith on us, I think. She told us later, ‘I had seen you guys working in Habitat. I knew you guys could pull it off”

And thank GOD we did…

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