Exhibiting children’s paintings from the sinking islands
Posted on behalf of: School of Media, Arts and Humanities
Last updated: Friday, 8 July 2022
An exhibition of pictures and tapestries at the University of Sussex aims to showcase the lived experiences of children living in climate change induced uncertainty.
Sundarbans, the largest mangrove delta in the world is situated at the confluence of the delta and the Bay of Bengal, spread across about 10,300 sq km of which about 60% is in Bangladesh and the rest in India.
Dr Anindita Saha, curator of the exhibition, said “The children of this World Heritage site are witnessing their parents’ uncertain way of life which are clearly reflected in the oral and visual capture of children’s voices through their art. Their arts are representative of the stories of the Sundarbans’ 7.2 million people who are dependent on – climate-sensitive sectors – agriculture, fishing, and collection of minor forest produce. The evocative paintings and the accompanying narrative of the child artists bring to light the impact of climate change exacerbated by a neo-liberal trajectory of globalisation in a marginal region and encourages a co-production of knowledge on how we can navigate through an uncertain future”.
“We have tried to tame the nature through our unsafe environmental activities and we are now paying the price.”- a 15-year-old 10th grade student
Dr Saha continued “The artwork mainly deals with the past, present and future narrative of the Sundarbans. When you look back to the Sundarbans of the past, you don’t see a destitute one, you see the sylvan beauty, the mangrove trees, the clear waters, the happy, hopeful hands nurturing its beauty, one could see the contentment on their face after earning a decent and secure livelihood, one sees the culture and the religion in full bloom.
The paintings focus on the deforestation, the wrath of climate, the hopeless present and the uncertain future. Through their paintings the children are trying to express their uncertainties, their struggle and their anxieties but in no way is their resilience and hope for a better and safer future is deterred”.
Professor Vinita Damodaran, Director of the Centre for World Environmental History said “There was no grand plan when I started off on this journey of discovering the Sundarbans, but what happened in the end was very helpful to creating a sense of community. For me to be able to understand what they were going through, for them to be able to communicate what they were going through, and for us to co-create solutions which enable them to share their vision and their world view with other people around the world”.
“We, the people of the Sundarbans regularly fight with a variety of uncertainties like climatic uncertainty, livelihood issues, political uncertainty etc. Though we are now quite accustomed with the climatic uncertainty like cyclone and flood, we always fear the loss of lives that we experience every year. Besides, COVID pandemic has been an awful threat to the livelihoods of the Sundarbans’ people since last two years…” voiced by a youth when asked what makes him anxious.
Coordinated by the Centre for World Environmental History in the School of Media, Arts and Humanities, the exhibition is in Arts A108 on Monday 11 July from 12.30 – 5 pm. Dr Anindita Saha, curator of the collection, will be available to speak to visitors from 12.30- 2.30 pm.