Inmates beautify Bhondsi prison wall

Leena Dhankhar: A group of inmates have beautified the front wall of Bhondsi jail, the biggest prison in the state,

with painting based on a variety of themes.
At the end of a three-month effort, eight inmates, have turned the 15-feet tall and 500-feet long boundary wall of the prison into an art gallery in a project titled ‘art connect’.
Some of the inmates said the activity that started as a hobby helped them in expressing themselves.
“After my conviction, I was depressed…The image of a murderer was stuck in me but when I began to paint, my life changed and I lived my life through the paintings. After the art work on the wall was completed, I have decided to continue painting on canvas,” Manish, a murder convict, said.
The team of the artists behind the new look included Aman, Manish, Ravi, Parveen, Anand, Hari, Subhash and Babulal. The eight inmates are presently serving life imprisonment.
The project started with an art workshop but soon the entire prison became their canvas. The total cost of the art work was R 5 lakh.
“In order to help the inmates, we did a need analysis with the inmates. After this, we identified that few of them were good hands in art and others had an interest in learning the art. We provided a platform to enhance their talent. We helped them through volunteer support, and by providing training, materials and expertise,” Monica Dhawan, director, India Vision Foundation, said.
“We feel happy seeing them accomplish these things that eventually help them increase their confidence and self-esteem,” Dhawan said.
Bhondsi jail collaborated with Nishu (Natasha Chadha Bhambri – Indian Contemporary Visual Artist) for the pilot project. The trainers started sessions with inmates to polish their skills and to make the prison aesthetically pleasing.
The Bhondsi prison now boasts of paintings, assemblage murals, recycled wall mounts, installations, texture works and sculptures.
Harinder Singh, superintendent of Bhondsi Jail, said, “A number of inmates are talented artists — some are excellent at painting and some at craft-making. We want to provide a platform to them using which they can flourish their talent. We decided to tap their potential and encouraged them to paint.”
“If given a chance, a number of them can become trainers too and further pursue their talent,” Singh said.
Aman Kumar, a murder convict who has been in the prison for the last five years, said, the experience was therapeutic and empowering. “Since we have painted the walls, the prison staff as well as other inmates compliment us. It feels great when so many people talk of our work.”
Jail authorities said they intend to motivate more inmates to pursue art and crafts at the prison. The paintings on canvas can be sold and the proceeds can go to the artist.