KUALA LUMPUR: It was an odd sight – some 40 children walking around town photographing random objects and scenes such as a mechanic fixing a car and a stray cat lounging on grass.
The outing was part of a photography workshop for children from the low-cost housing community of Sri Tioman 1 in Taman Melati here.
It was conducted by a Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival (DiverseCity) team led by festival director Datin Sunita Rajakumar.
The workshop was one of the activities under the team’s DiverseCity in the Community programme. It is aimed at transforming the community through art and design.
Sunita said the programme was inspired by a Turner Prize-winning community project by Assemble, a collective made up of people from the art, design and architecture fields. It is called Granby Four Streets.
She said the project, which focused on urban regeneration using art and design, highlighted the importance of art in transforming communities and lives.
“This is the role of art, design and architecture – to transform lives.
“I am motivated by that and I wanted to use these elements to go into a community and build enough trust and engage with them so that they can start to think about possibilities and have access to opportunities,” she said in an interview.
Sunita said the photography workshop, which was the brainchild of Studio DL owner David Lok, was one of the activities that helped build such trust.
“Canon Malaysia lent us about 40 digital cameras over the weekend, which we gave to the children to take home,” she said, adding that all the cameras were returned in good condition.
“They were honest kids. It was more of a test in trusting them,” she said.
One initial challenge was to get the children involved, she said.
“In the beginning, they would either come late or not come at all.
“Their lives are fluid and uncertain.
“So, what we did was to set an activity every Sunday at 10am and we requested that they just take part,” she said, adding that the strategy worked and the children started warming up to the activities.
She said the team chose art as it could help to enhance the children’s lives.
“Many of these children might not have the chance to partake in art activities due to financial constraints,” Sunita said.
“Right now, the education system focuses on logic, rote-learning and exams. This leads to left brain mastery.
“But it also means you are only operating at half your capacity because you are not investing enough in your right brain – creativity, artistry and powers of expression.”
Sunita said by teaching children to express themselves, they would be confident enough to share their creativity, which in turn would help them succeed in the future.
DiverseCity is now working with the National Academy of Arts Culture and Heritage to hold sessions where children can be taught traditional dances such as zapin.
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