Prison inmates bring Kolkata of the past alive on canvas

In a first, 40 paintings made by 14 prisoners are on display at the Indian Museum
As part of the World Heritage Week celebrations, an exhibition of 40 paintings titled Aitirjya (Our Heritage) has been curated at the Indian Museum, Kolkata. What makes it special is that the paintings have not been created by renowned artists, but those confined within the high walls of correctional homes in the city. A painting of the Great Eastern Hotel, which appears to be taken straight out of the Bourne and Shepherd photograph of late 19th century, a bullock cart passing through Shyam bazar four point crossing, among others, are on display in the courtyards of the museum that attracts thousands of visitors. The brushstrokes by 14 inmates, including 10 women and four men from the Dum Dum Central Correctional Home, have brought the old metropolis back to life.
The canvas for the artworks was also prepared by the inmates.
“This is the first time that an exhibition of paintings of inmates are displayed at such a prominent museum in Kolkata. These artworks mean a lot to the inmates. It is through these artworks that they can communicate with the world outside,” Chaitali Das, a representative of Rashak Foundation said.
Training session
Over the last couple of years, Rakshak Foundation has provided training to prison inmates so that they can acquaint themselves with canvas and paints. “The Indian Museum wanted to make the celebration of World Heritage Week more inclusive and participatory, and what can be better than organising an exhibition of paintings by prison inmates,” said Rajesh Purohit, Director of Indian Museum. Within hours of the paintings going on display, scores of visitors, including French Consul General Virgine Coeteval who was part of the inaugural, expressed interest in buying these artworks, Arun Kumar Gupta, Director General and Inspector General, Correctional Home Services of West Bengal, said. Eight of 40 paintings have been booked, Ms. Das said.
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