Mural by Sujata Tibrewala and Sabrina Davidson gives kids color role models they can relate to
Bay Area-based award-winning Native American artist Sujata Tibrewala and American artist Sabrina Davidson recently painted a mural at a California elementary school to give children of color role models they can relate to.
“Being a first-generation immigrant and a woman of color in art in America, I am acutely aware of what the lack of role models you can relate to can do to the psyches of young children, which is why we have created something for children that can have a lasting impact on them,” says Tibrewala.
It’s not very often that in America today, even with a burgeoning South Asian population, you can find images of brown icons like Mahatma Gandhi or Malala Yousufzai painted together like new age kids icons.
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But a California public elementary school boasts a life-size mural depicting not only these two iconic characters, but other achievers and activists of color as role models for little kids.
The idea behind this mural was born in 2021, when everyone was accepting the new normal in the pandemic-afflicted world. Tibrewala was thinking of ways to bridge the social and community divide induced by Covid-19 through her art.
Tibrewala, a resident of Milpitas, California, while doing her chores passed by the neighborhood Rose Elementary School.
She noticed that Milpitas, a town in Santa Clara County, due to its many information technology companies, had a very diverse population. She saw that the majority of students at the nearby school were from Hispanic, Vietnamese, Pacific Islander and Native American communities.
Having seen the lack of representation in mainstream America, especially for these children, she felt that the children needed a positive message.
She thought of painting a life-size mural in the school premises featuring color patterns that can be a source of inspiration and encouragement for young children.
Tibrewala who regularly holds retreats and exhibitions in America and received an award from Lalit Kala Akademi last year for her Covid-19 painting with Davidson, a visual artist from San Diego State University, wrote school authorities with their proposal.
Speaking to Khabar magazine from his art studio in River Island, California, Tibrewala said: “We spoke to the school principal who was very excited, but once things started to move we we also decided that children should be an equal part of the process. So, after exchanging several e-mails with the school authorities, Sabrina and I set up an interaction with the children. »
“We explained to them that our idea was to paint a mural depicting activists, politicians, academics, philosophers and achievers from various backgrounds and genders to give children an example in their own school of what people of color from around the world have accomplished. ”
But to make the process truly democratic, the artists gave the children a week to reflect on the heroes who inspire them. The artists and the school decided to narrow down the children’s choice and made a list.
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The final mural saw images of Mahatma Gandhi, Indian freedom leader who used nonviolent resistance to lead India’s independence struggle; Malala Yousufzai – Pakistani girls’ education activist and Nobel laureate; Cao Vinh Thinh – environmental activist from Vietnam who challenges environmental degradation in Vietnam; Dolores Heurta – American civil rights activist and labor leader; Julia Hill – American environmental activist known for living in a California redwood tree to prevent loggers from cutting it down and Laverne Cox – American actor, LGBT advocate and first transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award.
Tibrewala says, “If you look at all these icons, they really represent what American children are like today. Coming from diverse backgrounds, races, cultures, colors, religions and gender preferences – each of them tells little children they can raise their voices, stand up for their rights and refuse to accept what wrong – no matter where they come from.
The project truly became an amalgam when the artists decided to sketch the portraits and the children were tasked with filling in the color. Over a period of weeks, the children under the guidance of artists worked to create the mural which is an inspiration to all future students, who, as Tibrewala says – “unlike the previous generation, n are sure to see icons just like us in the American mainstream.