Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi’s Art For The Young Girls Of Kolkata

(Versione italiana). by Andrea Giostra

The latest artistic enterprise by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi unites ethics with aesthetics. The Milanese visual artist donated one of her beautiful paintings, called Kālī, to the Children’s Welfare Association in Kolkata. This orphanage - located in Sarsuna, that is part of the South-Western district of Kolkata known as Behala - welcomes young girls to help them complete their studies and find a job. 
In the past, the Italian artist had already channelled her art towards humanitarian purposes, donating her works to charity auctions and benefits for the Museum of Psychiatry, Museo di Psichiatria Paolo Pini (that took place in the headquarters of the Italian newspaper Sole24Ore), the Youth Hospital, Ospedale dei Bambini, in Milan and the New York organisation Tuesday’s Children. 
So far the paintings by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi have been displayed in Milan, Rome, Venice, Bologna, Palermo, Oxford, London, Paris and Manhattan. Chiara’s Material Puns travel to Asia for the first time with the donation of Kālī, as she continues with her Artistic-Activism. 
In this Exclusive Interview she shares with us her Indian adventure:
Chiara, how did this beautiful project come about? 
I have always had children’s welfare at heart, especially for those who are forced to grow up before their time, since childhood has an important role in shaping us as adults. I had a very lucky childhood. Perhaps that is why my sense of wonder has never abandoned me, and it can be perceived in my Material Puns, that playfully use wordplay and mixed media to convey a socially relevant message. I was hoping that the children from India would feel inspired by my portrayal of the Goddess of Time. I shared my wish with a New York friend, who is originally from New Delhi, and she connected me with the Probini Foundation, that made me discover the Children’s Welfare Association in Kolkata.
What is the history of this Children’s Home? 
This Home was established in 1952 with only 8 destitute young girls who came to Kolkata from Bangladesh, that at the time was East Pakistan. All of them had experienced the acute tortures inflicted on their parents, brothers and sisters, by the Pakistani soldiers. None of them knew any one in West Bengal, hence Late Mrs.Pratima Roy along with Late Mrs. Ashoka Gupta, Late Mrs. Priti Sen, and a few others, rented a small house in Beliaghata (north of Calcutta) and provided food and shelter to these girls. In the course of time many more orphan girls approached Mrs. Roy, and after a few years she was able to raise some funds and purchase a small house in Behala, the place of the present Home. Several socially active women joined her and they initiated a school in the same campus. Now the Home owns a large area of land and the school is a Higher Secondary School, under the West Bengal Government Board of Secondary Education, where local girls also come to study. 
What is the current mission of the organisation? 
The primary aim of the Association is to maintain the children in a Home providing boarding, lodging, clothing, medical care, and general education up to the Higher Secondary standard. Children also get different vocational training such as weaving, tailoring, stitching, embroidery, knitting and computer education. To create special interest in Art and Culture, the young girls get trained in vocal music, dance, recitation, drawing and painting by efficient teachers. To keep themselves healthy, the children are taught different exercises according to their age group. Whereas to keep themselves safe in future life, once they leave the orphanage, they are taught Martial Arts by a professional teacher. Above all, children take training in all kinds of domestic work. Senior students take care of their junior students as a part of their duty. Thus, they learn caring and sharing. I was so impressed by the efforts of this Home to develop the children’s values as much as their education. 
How was your painting received by the Children’s Welfare Association and the young girls? 
I was utterly overwhelmed by the warm welcome! Unfortunately, I could not take it myself, because I was engaged with work. But my mother, Bianca Maria Franchi, was my ambassador and brought the painting to Kolkata. She was the one who handed it to the Executive Committee’s President Dr. Sujata Ghosh Dastidar. Kālī was greeted by the staff and young girls, who celebrated with Indian dances and songs, and the painting was crowned with a garland of flowers and blessed with incense. 
Did you regret not being there?
Very much, but the girls surprised me with a wonderful gift, that my mother brought back to me: a painting they had made that homages Subhas Chandra Bose. He was a “Netaji” a "Respected Leader,” who led the Indian independence movement from British rule. The airport of Kolkata is named after him. This gift is very significant to me. They look at my Kālī and I gaze at their Netaji. We are united by art.
What was your aim by donating Kālī to the Children’s Welfare Association? 
My goal was to encourage female empowerment in these children who have started life hustling, but have finally found a caring Home. I chose the Hindu Goddess, Kālī, who controls the spirals of time, with this intent. She is both Creator and Destroyer. I wanted to inspire these little women to be the makers of their own fate and become as valiant as Kālī, battling every instant for the pursuit of their dreams.


Andrea Giostra

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