Watching ‘Hamlet’ on National Theatre Live at NCPA last evening. The Paris attacks that morning. Watching ‘Hamlet’.
Feeling humbled, that we could be watching something written 400 years ago, that so much art exists, so many people strive relentlessly to make the world a better, a more beautiful place. Feeling privileged that there are people like us who can access art, who can afford to access it.
And there are people whose backs are turned to the sun, who see only their own shadows on the wall. They are not to blame. What is the level of desperation, poverty, ignorance, violence that they must have witnessed to be able to destroy without a thought anything that is beautiful, anything that is there, including their own selves? No one destroys just like that.
Watching ‘Hamlet’ I felt, as I have felt many times, in many other situations, that surely exposing children to art, to thought, to films, to conversations, to questioning is the only way to make sure our world gets safer, healthier, a more beautiful place to live in. How can we not see the connection between an education that stresses only on the mundane, the practical, the getting of marks and passing of examinations, the slow killing of any thought and curiosity and the intolerance that comes later?
There are children who receive no education, children born – when one meets the parents or sees their living conditions, they seem to be children born only out of animal instinct. The parents resent even the food the children eat. There are children who are loved, protected, go to school, but the schools are factories, soul killing. The parents themselves are caught in the rut of making a living. The teachers enforce discipline, and nothing else.
At the Half Ticket section, the children’s film festival, which was a part of Jio Mami, this year, Dhanno and I helped facilitate the children to watch the film. It meant moderating discussions, asking questions, helping the children to see the films in other ways. It was clear that schools which had a culture of watching films, had children who were not only more articulate, but also more open to newer cultures, newer problems, and identified more with others. Children who came from so-called good schools, good because they get excellent rankings in the board exams, but had no culture of watching films, were not only less articulate, but also they found anything new funny. A new language, people who had different names, people who did not look like them, or behave like them, they could only ridicule, they did not want to understand them. They were less respectful of the medium, of other people’s work. It was clear, these divisions were clear.
Our children need to go to more museums, see more art, more films, and above all, need to learn how to talk about what they see. Should art not be made more accessible, more affordable? Should there not be more and more initiatives to take children to art and art to children?
Recently, Dhanno’s friend, Badal moved to New York on a job. He asked Dhanno to help him spend a day on his own, how does one travel when one is alone, what does one see? She sent him to the Met Museum. She guided him over Skype, on what could possibly interest him. He found Picasso strange, and did not care for Matisse. But the ‘Monet fellow’ he liked. He suddenly saw the connection between what Dhanno had been telling him after her visit to France, visit to Monet’s garden, and seeing the Nympheas at the Orangerie, about light, and what Monet was doing. He remembered a photo of Dhanno on the bridge at Giverny, and was excited to see ‘Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies’ at the Met. Badal is a good photographer, he photographs wild life. How much more could he have learned at school, while growing up, and how would it have helped him in the way he viewed the world?
At the end of ‘Hamlet’, Benedict Cumberbatch makes an appeal for help to save the children of the world, particularly Syria via savethechildren.org.uk. He quotes British-Somali poet Warshan Shire’s poem ‘Home’, “A parent only puts their child on a boat when the sea is safer than the land.” At Yamagata, many years ago, a Palestinian filmmaker cried the last evening. He did not want to go home, did not want to go back to the sounds of war. A home, which was permanently at war.