I love playing snakes and ladders with my friends. I am glad we were able to include the same in our museum,” beams 10-year-old Sakina Mandsaurwalla. She is one of the 25 children who have curated the exhibition titled “Footsteps — Framing the Future” at the newly-opened Children’s Museum at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) in Mumbai. Looking at the ancient Indian board game that is a worldwide classic, Mandsaurwalla, a student of Fazlani L’Academie Globale, adds, “The game fell under the themes we explored — friendship and hard work. The ladders and the snakes in the game point to the ups and downs we face in life.”
The children were chosen for the task through an inter-school art and essay competition, where they had to describe the museum of their dreams. Close to 500 children participated in the competition held across Mumbai. Daya Ravi, a student of J B Petit High School, Fort, says, “There were around 300 objects in the main museum, out of which we had to shortlist around 35 to 40. We had to find a common theme and make labels for each piece in our own words.”
The museum displays a wide range of art, from ancient sculptures to contemporary paintings, depicting India’s rich culture and heritage, re-interpreted through a child’s imagination. The 50 artefacts include a sculpture of freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi’s Charkha. The themes will be changed every few months. The current exhibition is classified into six themes — teamwork, courage, peace, environmental consciousness, friendship and hard work. “We feel these are the six values that are required to make this world a better place,” says Ravi.
The 1,200 square feet museum has a reading corner, multipurpose hall, amphitheater and terrace deck. “The project has taught me a lot of things such as teamwork, patience and brainstorming, which do not come from a textbook,” says 13-year-old Smit Kothari, a student of Udayachal High School.
Bilwa Kulkarni, Education Officer, CSMVS, says, “We wanted the kids to grapple with the complexities of what comes with putting together a real exhibition. We did not wish to make it a toy museum.”
This will continue to be a space meant for children. Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Director General, CSMVS, says, “Being a museum visited by over three lakh children every year, it was our desire to not just acknowledge kids as a significant audience but also give them a space that allows them to grow in an uninhibited manner.”