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Tata Steel Foundation Organises Exhibition of Paintings by the Children from its Education Signature Programme to Observe Learning Outcomes in Grassroots Odisha

Bhubaneswar: An exhibition of paintings made by tribal children from remote hamlets of Odisha has been inaugurated by Tata Steel Foundation on September 17, 2023, at the Lalit Kala Akademi in Bhubaneswar, and will continue till September 19, 2023. This is part of the Foundation’s Education Signature Programme, being run jointly with ASPIRE. The inauguration ceremony witnessed the presence of Vijay Amruta Kulange, Commissioner, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation. This set of 111 paintings by 98 tribal children was curated in collaboration with People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI).

These children come from 57 schools studying in classes 3 to 9. Girl artists outnumber boys 68 to 30! The 57 schools whose students participated in this endeavour are spread across 9 blocks of Jajpur and Kendujhar districts – Banspal, Champua, Danagadi, Ghatgaon, Jhumpura, Joda and Sukinda. The 12 tribes the children belong to are: Bathudi, Bhuiya, Bhumij, Gandia, Gond, Ho, Kolha, Mankirdia (also spelt as Mankidia – an offshoot of the Birhor tribe), Munda, Samti, Santhal and Sounti. Some of these are classified as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). These young students with limited means and resources, living in some of the remotest tribal hamlets in Odisha, made these vibrant paintings with crayons, pencil colours, sketch pens and water colours.

An online version of the exhibition was inaugurated on April 12, 2023, at the Bombay House in Mumbai. For its physical launch, the exhibition was brought to Bhubaneswar to observe the results of the learning they received as a part of the Programme and displayed an idea of their vision of the future in alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Moved by the contents displayed on the walls of the Akademi, Vijay Amruta Kelange opined, “To find happiness in the smallest of things is a prowess, too. The paintings we see here today talk of the tribal way of life, of finding beauty in the simplest of activities, of the bounty of nature that often goes unnoticed. They are not just showcasing their own learning here, but also teaching us in a way.”

Speaking on the occasion, Ambika Prasad Nanda, Head CSR, Odisha, observed, “This is a-first-of-its-kind painting exhibition for us wherein we intend to take the larger narrative of education and tribal wisdom through the lens of children and their artistic skills. In these paintings children have expressed tribal culture, life in tribal villages, and the rich nature around. The children behind these frames have not had formal training in painting, yet the expressions convey a story, each.”

Smita Agarwal, Head, Education, Tata Steel Foundation, says “These paintings show that children’s potential is limitless. No matter what their background, the moment the right opportunities of learning are created for them, they blossom beyond what we can imagine. The paintings depict deeply emotional scenes of a mother labouring hard, elephants destroying a village, women and children dancing in unison, and so on. Through their work children have shown us the direction how we adults can support their learning.”

The online archive can be viewed on the PARI website at Each painting includes a 50 second descriptive video through which the child artist has expressed what motivated her or him to make that painting.

The Foundation’s Education Signature Programme is a single umbrella programme with multiple components that are harmonised to create lasting change. Operational in 37 blocks of 5 districts across Jharkhand and Odisha, the Programme has covered more than 3 Lakh children so far. Activated through the three core elements of Access, Learning and Governance, the Programme reaches the last mile children and the most challenging cases of child labour and helps turn habitations into Child Labour Free Zones (CLFZ).

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