A super energetic girls’ group from CBWDS (Centre for Blind Women and Disability Studies),New Delhi, shared their experiences with Siddhant Shah, after the tactile walk ‘Abhas’ at DAG Modern (a Modern Art museum in Delhi). Gudiya – as she is popularly called by her teachers, thanked Siddhant Shah and the team from DAG Modern who assisted them during the walk. She shared with the team how she and her friends were amazed to ‘touch and see’ the artwork. It was a first time experience for them to be invited to an art gallery and the opportunity to actually feel the objects, which was something that none of the other galleries offer. They are not equipped with the infrastructure that can make their space accessible to those with visual impairment. When the girls were asked about their favorite art work, there was a unanimous vote for the 3D tactile reproduction of the artwork by Eric Bowen. As they had fun touching the replica and exploring various shapes, lines and surfaces of this black and white strip artwork.
Their second favorite is the reproduction of J. Swaminathan’s, Bird, Mountain and Tree series, where they not only enjoyed touching and experiencing the artwork but also appreciated the element of smell in this reproduction. Ishrat Jahan, who hails from Banaras, is the youngest member of this group who receives and undertakes training in areas of crafts, candle making, braille reading and other skills. She made a remarkably interesting observation with reference to burnt wood Tactile Aid for Jeram Patel’s Art work, commenting on how amazed she was to learn that creating something did not always involve sticking things together – but one could also burn to create something new.
Siddhant Shah, who is the creator of ‘Abhas, a Tactile Experience’, feels that his work is successful when he hears comments like these. It fits the main aim of this initiative – allowing one to experience art with multiple senses and being aware of the ideas and concepts that exist in the art-scape. The students of CBWDS concluded the discussion with a round of chai or Indian tea, essentially with milk and sugar, while Gudiya made a parting statement, saying that sensing the various materials through touch, had helped her think about other unique ways of using paper, strings and sand for her handicraft training sessions.
Siddhant Shah, a Stavros Niarchos Scholar finished his MA in Heritage Management from the University of Kent (Athens Campus, Greece). His first degree is in Architecture with a Pg. Dip. Indian Aesthetics, and is an Access Management Consultant who specializes in bridging the gap between Cultural Heritage and Disability. He works with museums, art-events, art galleries and cultural sites to make them more accessible through educational and multi-sensory experiential activities, focusing on kids and groups with special needs. He has designed books in Braille for cultural organizations in India and Pakistan along with Tactile Art & Heritage Walks. He has written and designed India and Pakistan’s 1st Open Braille guide book with large script font and tactile plates. Shah consults national and international museums like National Museum, Jaipur City Palace Museum, State Bank of Pakistan Museum and other organizations like DAG Modern, Art1, India Art Fair amongst others. His is driven with a focus to either ‘Get a Person to the context or get the Context to the person’.