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Curating Art at a Book Fair – A Powerful Learning Experience for Parents and Kids

Curating art at book fair with children

I try not to miss a visit to an exhibition or a fair. More so – an art exhibition or a book fair. There’s so much for a child (heck, there’s so much for me!) to capture in such spaces – the sights, the sounds, the opportunities to interact, ask questions, get questioned in turn, click pictures, come back and reflect on. And….

….and, the lively conversations that Pari and I have – on site. Yes, through these conversations, we learn, debate, explore, contemplate, educate, clarify, form a perspective, and understand each other’s perspective.

In this riot of colours and images, a child will capture and learn much more than she’d in a classroom – with a bag-full of text books.

Above all, we learn to see from the lens of an artist or a writer.  

Sharing some breathtaking art that we spotted (and curated) at the book fair – from around the world in Children’s literature. Also, snippets of conversation between Pari and me, while we were soaking in all that creativity.

The weather had warmed up but it was raining books the whole of last week at the Delhi World Book Fair. There was no other place I wanted to be more desperately than the Fair grounds at Pragati maidan. Yet, I sort of knew what it would be like – going there with Sufiana. All that crowd, cold wind, pollution (well, don’t you know – Delhi tops the list of top 10 polluted cities in the world), demanded me to keep my emotions under control.

Yet, I ended up surrendering to my emotions (actually, ‘addiction’. Yes, I’m addicted to book fairs.), and we found ourselves surrounded by  – well, books ofcourse. But also the most eye-catching and alluring sea of artwork in the Children’s book section. Actually, section is not the right word, for it was a massive, massive hall dedicated to Children’s literature from India and from around the world.)

Delhi World Book Fair_Mommy Labs2

The World Book Fair encompassed a range of genres and not just Children’s literature. But, knowing that we’d be able to afford just a few hours with Sufiana, we headed straight to Hall No: 7 – for Children’s books. The fact that it was a week day, helped beat the weekend crowd.

The books – they were all there. Millions and zillions of books, as far as the eyes could see.

But, what stood out for me – bright and alive and larger than life – was the art. 

Delicate water colour work, comic book art, graphic art, charcoal sketches, collages, subtle pencil work – it was as though art and colour and shapes and figures were flying past my eyes no matter which way I turned my head!

Delhi World Book Fair_Mommy Labs1

I felt a surge of energy take over my spirit at the sight of the giant displays of artwork (from books).

Illustrator from Poland6

Pari and I felt engulfed and engrossed simultaneously with all that larger-than-life creativity. The child in me was breaking free; feasting her eyes on the playful, colourful, wild imagination of the artists. 

Delhi World Book Fair_Mommy Labs4

After hibernating for months since Sufiana’s birth, Pari and I felt as though we had come alive like the butterflies in summer time (ah, isn’t there a song on similar lines – “moth in summer-time”).

Illustrator from Poland 11

With Sufiana cradled in one arm, I was clicking away with Pari’s point-and-shoot camera with my right hand. Thank God for my big and stable hands, I had more than two dozen pictures – without the slightest shake/blur.

Mommy Labs World Book Fair

It was the Poland booth where I hung out most of the time.

So gorgeous was their booth, and so enchanting – the art on their books. I was almost hopping with enthusiasm taking Pari (and sometimes Avie) around to each nook and corner of that space.

Illustrator from Poland8

Every single wall in the booth was adorned with illustrations and pictures (by Polish artists).

Illustrator from Poland_marta ignerska

Even the text (surrounding some of the artwork) was a piece of art in itself.

Illustrator from Poland 10

The 20 illustrators that the exhibitors from Poland showcased, are brilliant, to say the least.

I’d recommend checking out these talented Polish artists/illustrators/writers:

  • Joanna Olech – A true artistic authority in Polish children’s literature.
  • Marianna Oklejak: Illustrated an extremely popular series of books for preschool-aged children. Check out her blog.
  • Marta Ignerska: Known as the Pablo Picasso of Polish illustration. Her blog.
  • Elzbieta Wasiuczynska: She’s illustrated over 20 books, including the well-loved series devoted to the adventures of “Mr. Ball”. She paints, sews and makes models out of plasticine and paper. Check out her works made with unusual techniques.
  • Joanna Concejo: Her books are always on serious topics – which are intensified by the subtle lines of her pencil. Check out her blog to see her poetic artwork.
  • Iwona Chmielewska: Is the author of poetic, ephemeral collages packed full of meaning. Is highly appreciated through out the world. She says, it is possible to dream up a book about any topic at all.” And she does.

Illustrator from Poland7

Illustrator from Poland2

Yesterday, at the book fair, surrounded by all that art, text, pictures and smell of fresh paper – Pari and I explored, discussed and wondered all this and more…

Sharing some snatches from the conversation she and I exchanged!

Pari, did you see this picture – all that white space around the art. Makes it look so neat.

Illustrator from Poland1

Mamma, over there! That pillar made of just books! Can we do something like that at home!

children's books Delhi World Book Fair 2014

Pari, what an interesting art wall! Wait, I think I can make one too, at home. We need to get some bamboos.

Delhi World Book Fair_Mommy Labs3

See that map with all the pictures? We could do that for our city…

Delhi World Book Fair_Mommy Labs6

Just silhouettes! Wow Pari – what a coincidence! Weren’t we talking about making silhouette art just yesterday!

Illustrator from Poland5

Hey Pari, this picture – don’t you think it’s so powerful in black and white? Or, would you have preferred colour?

Polish Literature 4

Hey mamma, look at this text. Isn’t the font interesting? Wait, I’ll click a photo so I can learn to write in this style.

children's literature India

And, we go on and on!

Pari bought two books – the Campfire graphic novels. I bought four posters.

She bought one diary. I brought home a catalogue (free, free!) from the Poland booth. (it’s for sure my most precious possession in recent times.)

Together we captured 87 pictures – of art, people, the drive (inside the car and outside), food court and Sufiana.

And, each picture has got at least one story behind it.

Learning, learning everywhere, not a moment to spare.

Art allows children to represent real objects, events, and feelings. It is a needed outlet for children whose vocabulary, written or verbal, may be limited (de la Roche, 1996). The early use of symbols in artwork provides a foundation for children’s later use of words to symbolize objects and actions in formal writing.

I was reading up about some well-known curators, and the words of Thelma Golden struck the chord for me. They really hit home the point I wanted to convey above when I said (about visiting an exhibition as a parent – with my child), “through these conversations, we learn, debate, explore, contemplate, educate, clarify, form a perspective, and understand each other’s perspective.”

This is what Thelma Golden says about her work as a curator:

The privilege I’ve had as a curator is not just the discovery of new works… but what I’ve discovered about myself and what I can offer in the space of an exhibition – to talk about beauty, to talk about power, to talk about ourselves, and to talk and speak to each other.

Listen to her TED talk where she talks through three art shows that explore how art examines and redefines culture.


P.S: Some more artful picks from the Delhi World Book Fair.

Illustrator from Poland 9

Polish Literature 1

Delhi World Book Fair 2014

Iran Literature

Polish Literature 2

Polish Literature 3

“Can writing change anything? Yes. 
I believe profoundly that it does.
Without this faith, I wouldn’t
be able to write.”

I resonate with the thought above – by Ryszard Kapuściński – Polish reporter, journalist, traveller, photographer, poet and writer whose dispatches in book form brought him a global reputation.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Miquela February 25, 2014, 1:41 am

    That book fair looks marvelous, *especially* the art. What a wonderful spark for the whole family’s imagination, creation, and conversation.

    I understand you not wanting to take Sufi out into such polluted air. I have the same fears with the soon-to-be-here-baby.* You live in the number one polluted city; I live in the third. :(

    *I’m one day past my due date and hoping and praying the baby comes along before my doctor insists on inducing; she’s given me 10 days…

    • Rashmie February 26, 2014, 11:51 pm

      Dear Miquela,
      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      And hey, don’t worry about going past the due date. The due date phenomena is a medical terminology that doctors insist on. It’s more like an ‘appointment’ with the doctor rather than an appointment with the baby. The baby comes when the baby is ready to.
      So, try to persuade the doctor to wait and let your body and baby take the lead. As per my first ultra sound scan, my due date was Oct 28 or so. But, Sufiana decided to come on Nov. 2 A more than 40-weeks baby.

      There are some natural ways to induce if you’d like to. Raspberry tea helps. Dancing – hip swirling! Also, getting cozy with your partner :-)
      Here’s an article with tips: http://thehumbledhomemaker.com/2012/08/7-ways-to-naturally-induce-labor.html

      All the very best, dear one :-) I’d wait eagerly to hear more from you – whenever you’re able to write next. Hugs and love and mother ‘shakti’ (energy/strength) from me to you.

  • ami bhuptani February 25, 2014, 8:58 am

    what a lovely post! truly inspiring.. i had almost made up my mind to travel to delhi for the fair and the post made me feel bad not to have done it!
    And your blog in a way has inspired me to take on to homeschooling my 4.5 year old on an experimental basis at least!
    though i still have my doubts on how do you manage as the kids get older! will talk on that later
    all the best with sufiana!

    • Rashmie February 26, 2014, 11:54 pm

      Feel free to give me a buzz if you’d like to talk about homeschooling/unschooling. :-)
      You can do it, mamma :-) I saw the pictures of all the creative and fun stuff you do with your son. :-)

  • Anu February 25, 2014, 10:46 am

    All week long, I have been ogling at pics of the World Book Fair, and now you show me all these!!!! am all the more jealous now!!!!! so not fair that we dont have anything like this in mumbai! on the positive side, lovely captures, and I am sure all three of you had a wonderful time!

    • Rashmie February 26, 2014, 11:59 pm

      Anu, I know how you feel about such events – books fairs etc. Yes, it’s a huge plus living in the capital city. But then, I visit such events for the sheer experience of browsing, exploring new authors, art etc. But, when it comes to buying, I prefer buying online – where-ever I get a good deal.
      You may want to check out this site. They have opened a virtual library. They also have used books in good number.

  • Jayshree February 25, 2014, 6:00 pm

    A wonderful read! I used to have a gala time at Delhi Book fair. Thank you for posting the pics. I so relate to your experience in the book fair. You have inspired me to take my daughter Jiya to a book fair.

  • Rashmie February 27, 2014, 12:05 am

    Thank you, Jayshree, for stopping by to comment. Checked out your blog. Interesting information about insects and bugs. I’ll share with Pari. She’ll be delighted!

  • Manish February 28, 2014, 12:29 am

    What a fascinating account of a visit to a book fair! A very thoughtful perspective of how much there is to soak in and come back and reflect upon, beyond just buying a few books! BTW, with some of these pictures it would seem like you were at an art fair! :)

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