Excerpts from New Indian Express (29th September 2020)

Over the years, the definition of home has transcended from its literal sense — of being made of four walls and metamorphosed into a feeling — one that takes you beyond its brick and mortar facade. For some, it could be a haven, an abode of entertainment, a place to just ‘crash’, a person who welcomes you with a hot meal at the end of a long day, a fort of memories, or where ‘the water doesn’t taste’ weird.

A variable concept with no ultimate meaning, we often find ourselves in an ever-evolving, symbiotic relationship with our homes. This equation has, perhaps, only intensified in the last six odd months, during the lockdown. Testimony to this were the heartwarming photographs, a visual expression of ‘What is home?’, shot by 10 children from the Nalandaway Foundation. The imageries — ranging from that of an unassuming staircase leading to a terrace filled with gleeful banter, of a 60-year-old Sagunthala, one of the participant’s grandmother preparing a hot meal; sunrays streaming through the window, a collection of dolls and earrings, the everyday mundane yet memorable journey to one’s tuition centre, of a crow taking flight, backyard panoramas and family portraits, still-life compositions to shadow and light play — were exhibited as part of Chennai Photo Biennale’s (CPB) digital showcase, on Saturday.

Juxtaposing images with tales of their home, people and objects that make it, the student artists between ages 10 to 17, weaved a visual tapestry, giving its attendees new ways to see the world. “Students from the Nalandaway Foundation were part of a seven-week photography programme (#TeenPhotoAcademy and #EyespywithCPB) with us at CPB Prism. The students were divided into two batches of five students each. We mentored them in various photography techniques and decided to make a photo series where students explored their homes, family and memories through the project.

With most of us being confined indoors, the idea of exploring what exactly the space we call home means to us seemed like a great one to carry out. It was great to get a sneak peek of their lives at home during the lockdown. It was their first time having a showcase of this kind and the students enjoyed it! It felt great to see the students present their work with confidence and ease said Habiba, the education programme coordinator at CPB.

The show also featured the works of five students from the Agastya International Foundation, an organisation that aims to make education accessible to the economically disadvantaged. The young guest presenters showcased works, which included images shot on analogue cameras and short cultural documentaries — all of which were enabled by the Foundation’s MediaArts Lab.

Addressing the participants, Vasant Nayak, founder of Murthy Nayak Foundation, which has been supporting CPB Learning Lab’s programming in 2020, said, “It’s been exciting to see the surprises the children bring to just about anything with their refreshing approach. The works are innocent, devoid of any preconceived notions of art and yet incredible. There’s something for all of us to learn.” Sriram of Nalandaway Foundation, Subramanya of Agastya Foundation, and Gurunathan Ramakrishnan, design architect and photographer, were also part of the event.

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