Colours Beyond the Wall Volume II: Reformation through Art


‘Do you see the eyes?’ ‘Look closely and you would see the eyes with tears streaming down. And this is the nose,’ Kinga (name changed) said to the exhibition curator who was peering curiously over the painting he was then working on for the exhibition (shown below).

Colours Beyond the Wall Volume II

Figure 1: Zentangle Painting by Kinga

At 13 years of age, he is the youngest who came into conflict with the law and serving his sentence at the Youth Development and Rehabilitation Center (YDRC) in Tsimasham. Like the rest at the facility, he comes from a family of difficult circumstances, which led to the conflict with the law. Also recently placed, he struggled to share and kept to himself. Being behind the walls doesn’t mean the issues don’t come to bite him and his zentangle piece is his attempt at expressing his suppressed emotions as depicted by the tearing eyes hidden amidst the patterns. 

Puran and Bimal (name changed) are two others in their third year at the facility, and with previous training in traditional art forms, they have managed to build a name for themselves by selling their paintings to the locals with the help of marketing from the police. Their pieces at the exhibition reflect their signature traditional style and a few contemporary paintings (shown below).  

Figure 2: Painting by Puran & Bimal

These are some of the stories behind the painting pieces showcased at the Colors Beyond the Wall Volume II exhibition organized by Nazhoen Lamtoen at Workspace, Thimphu. The exhibition started on 20th April 2022 and ends on 2nd May 2022 (extended). It features art pieces of about 19 juveniles serving their prison terms at RBP’s YDC. 

Support program for juvenile delinquents

Talking about the exhibition title, Mr Thinley Tobgay, the Executive Director with Nazhoen Lamtoen said, “In its different hues, colours create art and beauty. Wall is symbolic of the bar behind which our current creators are. And it’s to show that even if they are behind walls, such beautiful things can come out from behind the walls.”

The exhibition has about 87 art pieces on display worked in a month’s time by the youths below 18 years of age at YDRC. They are given a week-long introductory art course with a resource person from VAST Bhutan as part of Nazhoen Lamtoen’s support program at the center. During the week-long course, the juveniles are taught to use pencil, watercolour and acrylic as tools to create abstract, landscape, portraits and still life categories of art. After the course, they are provided with painting materials and given about a month’s time to submit their entries. The art entries submitted are then screened to ensure everyone has at least one painting each at the exhibition. Thus, the final collection has paintings from three categories – zentangle, abstract and landscape that art enthusiasts can choose to buy. 

‘Art and its therapeutic power are undeniable and far-reaching. One of the juveniles says that art enables them to express their emotional state. When they are engaged in art and colors they can forget about their problems at home and relieve grief and guilt. The rest of them also support this idea. Since introducing the art in 2019, they have kept insisting on repeating the program, and we have been doing so. The exhibition's main purpose is to raise funds to continue the program at YDRC. Also, once they are released, aftercare is very important. If you cannot provide it, most of them go back to committing crimes. They are handed over to Dzongkhag or gup, and they are back to square one. Instead, we receive them right from the facility gate, and as per their capacity, skill, interest and hobby, we screen them and support them to reintegrate them back into society. Funds for reintegration programs remain another purpose. Thus, all the proceeds from the exhibition will be used for these purposes,” added Mr Thinley Tobgay

There are more to the art than meets the eye

Browsing the exhibition, if you are not an art expert, one can tell that the pieces can’t compare to the work of professional artists. But what shines through is their sheer effort, and if you take the time to learn the stories of the artist behind each piece, you will be able to understand it better. A story each of the attendees can connect to in some aspect. The organizers hope that the public sees the pieces for the stories and consider investing in them so that they can help change the lives of the juveniles – especially the four of them who have expressed their interest in taking painting professionally once they have served their term. 

The price of the arts ranges from Nu 2,500 to 6,000 and can be bought from the exhibition at Workspace. If you are unable to make it to the exhibition until 2nd May, the organizers are in talks with people with personal collection to put it on sale at their gallery and you can contact the organizers at [email protected] or 77842091.

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