As over 400 children poured in from every direction towards the centre of Rabindra Shorobor (Amphitheatre) at Dhanmondi Lake, it seemed to the volunteers (including myself) that they would be uncontrollable. They laughed, scurried all over the place and between them, shared an energetic force unparallel to everything else. They were truly unstoppable.
This is what Chikimonkey-Phulkuri Art Competition felt like on that sunny morning of 21st February 2008. Organized by the children’s organization, Phulkuri Aashor in Dhanmondi and sponsored by Chikimonkey, a product from Akij Group; the competition catered to 425 participants from different schools, of which most were aimed at underprivileged and autistic children. They were divided into three groups: Ka (for autistic children), Kha (for Nursery to 3rd Grade) and Ga (4th grade and onwards). The subjects were as follows: Group Ka “Ja Icche Aaki”, Group Kha “Gourobmoy Shahid Minar” and Group Ga “Rashtrobhasha Bangla Chai”. But, beyond the groups, subjects and rules was the enthusiasm the flowed within every individual present at the occasion.
After the participants scribbled their names and respective personal information in the entry forms, and the volunteers managed to place them at their designated rows with art papers; the competition finally began at quarter to ten. Pencils scratched the images of Language Movement and brushes stroked colours of freedom, mutiny and sacrifice. Many of the children forgot to bring boards, pencils and colouring materials; and it was great to see Phulkuri volunteers pulling things out from their own reserves to help them out. We watched the kids pour out their hearts on the white canvas and carefully recreating the spirit of Ekushey. They were their own art critics, silent observers and rule setters. Some asked for a second opinion from one of us, and when we encouraged them about their talents; they would scrutinize us from head to toe and then say, “Nah, I still think the people in my drawing don’t look real enough!”
In the midst of the paintings, Shandhani was handing out low cost services to the awaiting parents and representatives from different schools. Anyone interested could get blood grouping and screening done at Tk.50 only, and many of the university goers present at the venue decided to step up and donate blood. Of course, pricking needles through their child’s skin wasn’t a very appealing thought to most of the parents, even if it meant knowing the blood group. Many parents even shooed us away with angry looks and shocked expressions!
After an hour of drawing, scribbling and criticizing, the announcer finally ended the competition. The volunteers walked between the rows, collecting the paintings and opening Chikimonkey sponsored drinks and chips packets for the children. As they posed excitedly for a moment on some of our cameras, the remaining volunteers counted and categorised the paintings. The 2-hour long event officially ended with the much spirited Phulkuri song echoing in everyone’s voices and the surrounding air.
Although the results are due on the 29th of this month, it was obvious that most participants were least bothered about it. They remembered the fun and excitement of the event, and somehow, it was all that mattered. The remains of wax colours on their fingernails and brush strokes on their noses carried a sense of satisfaction. As one of the volunteers puts it, “It was truly an amazing experience!”
Published on 28th February 2008 in Rising Stars