Art and the young

From an art education documentary to a dance performance to an animated film, the Goa Open Arts Festival, which is all set to begin on February 23 will have a segment dedicated to youth creativity


With a myriad showcase of various arts, the second edition Goa Open Arts Festival promises to be a treat for the people of Goa. Among the many offerings, the festival will also be highlighting the work of young talents. It will feature five projects born from collaborations with both the youth and the community. Three of these projects resulted from the Goa Open Arts grant.

‘My Inner Self’

‘My Inner Self’ is an animated film created by a group of Russian-speaking kids of different ages from Goa. It was executed following dedicated workshops facilitated by the Button Animation Studio and offers unique reflections and personal opinions.

Director and teacher of the animation studio ‘Da’ St. Petersburg, Katerina Kubareva says that during their workshops, they discussed their opinions on important aspects of life and discovered that these opinions can vary greatly among different people, yet, still be interesting.

Button Animation Studio she adds originated from Studio ‘Da’ in St. Petersburg, Russia, with over 10 years of experience working with children on animation projects.

The team structures workshops with numerous examples and creative tasks that allow them to get to know each other better and create projects according to the interests of the group. “We introduce various visual styles and animation techniques. We guide participants through the complete process of creating storyboards, choosing the style of the future film, drawing, voice recording, and capturing cut-out animations,” says Kubareva.

Happy to be selected for the festival, she emphasises that art is a fundamental need, providing a unique chance for self-discovery and a tool to shape one’s life. “This knowledge becomes a lifelong support. Also, collective art imparts collaboration skills and the ability to find mutually beneficial solutions,” she says, adding that they personally enjoy working with kids, although they have also done projects with different age groups and people with different abilities. “Young people often have very original ideas and a keen sense of curiosity, making our work together interesting and productive.”

During the festival, the team plans to conduct animation workshops for school kids.


Ready Steady

Filmmaker Safdar Rahman will be presenting ‘Ready Steady’ a movie about 10 teenagers from low-income families trying to fit into elite schools in Delhi.

Rahman says that he and Nivritti, the producer, taught in under-resourced schools in Delhi as a part of the Teach for India fellowship more than a decade ago. “Some of Nivritti’s students got into elite Delhi schools through a scholarship. When they were leaving these schools, Nivritti came to me with the idea of making a film with them.”

The initial idea was to make a film on the journey of these teenagers. However, along the way, they decided to let the kids write their own stories and become filmmakers, while Rahman and Nivritti played the role of enablers in this creative journey. “It was a film that was created with students about things that were important to them. We gave them the freedom to choose what it was they wanted to speak about. It resulted in some very nuanced writing and takes on larger issues,” says Rahman.

For him, the film has been a clear learning that if they create a safe space where students are given responsibility and held accountable for that responsibility, they turn up in the best ways possible. “The entire process of making this film had a diverse mix of experiences, from students of elite backgrounds visiting homes of those who had previously lied about their living situations, to parents actively participating, and students taking on roles within the film crew, eventually travelling with the film to different parts of the country. This reflects the potential for our society to function in ways that are surprisingly inclusive and equitable,” he says.

Tree of Life

The ‘Tree of Life’ is a mural project by the Aldona Community Collaborative created collectively with local children. Imagined through workshops spanning six months, the mural captured the essence of Goa’s flora, fauna, and local sights.

One of the project coordinators, Isa Hinojosa says, “We aimed for the kids to recognise their village as a place with a distinct identity, rich in natural beauty and cultural diversity. We wanted them to understand that these elements are interconnected, much like the branches of a tree. The goal was to create awareness and appreciation, encouraging them to value what they have and participate in positive changes for the community,” says Hinojosa.

For the festival, she will be working on Puzzle Fish, a collaborative on-site mural featuring animals, plants, or feelings, symbolising what participants cherish about their life in Goa. “Collaboration will be key as participants paint the pieces, remaining unaware of the outcome until the end. Art prompts, such as printed images, will be available for participants to draw ideas and inspiration from. As the pieces dry, participants will be encouraged to guess the final image, with clues provided and the background gradually revealed,” she says.




In 2023, Goa Open Arts granted the Engage Award to Johanna Rodrigues (‘BgirlJo’), a breakdancer who empowers young women and youth across Goa through dance workshops focusing on body positivity and self-confidence.

“It’s my dream to take this dance form to women all over the country, but Goa is a great starting point because it is more open-minded,” she says, adding that she has been teaching free classes in the community since she received the grant from Goa Open Arts. “I then organised a full-fledged Hip Hop jam where my students experienced breaking and Hip Hop firsthand, and I am presenting this in the form of a video at the festival. We will also have a dance performance at the event.”

The free classes that preceded the workshops, she says, ran for a few months, and she saw that while kids initially found it difficult in the first few classes, the motivation slowly picked up. “A couple of my students come from very low-income groups, whereas some students come from a very comfortable life. So seeing their interaction is a success for me. The kids are now friends. They see each other as equals,” she says.

She adds that she also had some teenagers and young women who felt more confident after learning breaking through the free classes.

However, she did face a few challenges when she began. One was the lack of awareness about this dance form. The second was the lack of time as children would be stuck in tuitions for hours every evening. “Convincing parents was a little challenging. Even after the workshop, a lot of parents didn’t want to send their kids to dance because they felt it could get in the way of their studies,” she says.

But breaking has a lot of benefits, she states. “I see dance, and especially breaking, promoting mental, emotional, and physical well-being among everyone who practices it. It can help us understand competition in a very healthy manner and understand that everybody is good at something. The idea of perfection gets broken down in many ways,” she says.

Going forward, she hopes to continue to help children of all income groups. “I would love to continue offering it for free as well as hosting an annual event called ‘Shakti’, where dancers from all over the country come down to Goa and engage with the community here.”


‘UnSchool Goa’

‘UnSchool Goa’ is a documentary film that explores UnSchool Goa, a community-based programme by Rashmi Baruah and Hafsa Bukhary where they engage with underprivileged children from Parra and Nagoa villages in art education programmes, encouraging self-expression and learning.

This programme, says Baruah, originated from a simple concept. “Both of us have a background with Teach for India and extensive experience in the education sector. Our move to Goa in 2020 during the lockdown led us to notice a gap in spaces for children over the past three years, worsened by COVID-19. Inspired by this, my partner and I aimed to bring children from diverse neighbourhoods together, encouraging friendships and enjoyment. This basic concept evolved into an artistic journey with the Goa Open Arts grant providing structure to our initiative.”

However, there were initial hurdles in terms of getting children to join UnSchool. “Unfortunately, in India, for many, childhood is seen primarily as a preparation for adulthood, and the latter is considered a serious business. I don’t think we fully comprehend the power of play and connections, and how bringing children together through artistic mediums or providing a space for play can help them make sense of experiences, communities, and people around them,” she says, adding that this challenge was especially pronounced for the migrant community, particularly in Arpora.

Another challenge arose due to a spectrum of diverse children with varying levels of learning, confidence, and literacy. “We also dealt with a wide range of age groups. However, we adapted our workshops, outcomes, and methods to address the diverse needs of the children. Small group activities facilitated by volunteers were organised, allowing us to communicate in the regional language, be it Hindi or Konkani, for those who didn’t understand English. Overcoming the initial mindset of parents, who were hesitant to let their children participate, was a significant accomplishment,” says Baruah.

Through the programme, they are now looking at setting up a community artistic space where they can continue to collaborate and dream and even partner with public schools and share resources to build an art community.

Another initiative that they are excited about is building a cycle library.


Highlight performances and screenings

The opening and preview of the festival will be held today at 5 p.m. at Old GMC Complex, Panaji. BgirlJo’s performance is scheduled for 4 p.m., and ‘Ready Steady’ will be screened at 6.30 p.m. today, while the other three videos (including one from Johanna Rodrigues) and installations will run continuously throughout the festival.