July 28, 2020
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Siddhant Shah

The art and disability access consultant on his initiative Abhaas, where everyone can feel art—his tactile reproduction of art’s master-works.

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Siddhant Shah
Siddhant Shah

Tell us about Abhaas. How did the initiative come about?

Abhaas is for all to ‘view’, even the visually impaired, as each painting has a tactile representation. In Greece, I came across a tactile mus­eum. I decided to bring that.

What are the things to keep in mind when making tactile representations?

The first is to keep it close to the original. The size, texture and medium correspond, and we add music and smell to help create environment.

Any difficulties?

Technology, the lack of it. Also, Indian paintings being replete with figures and elements.

You have a braille booklet to go with it.

It is not just translations in braille. We also have tactile samples and swatches of med­iums and drawing styles to help educate the visitor.

Take us through one such experience of tactile art.

There is a painting by Nandalal Bose of an esraj player. The visitors first exp­erience it through an esraj piece. Burning incense adds to the mood.

You also have block-printing as part of the exhibition.

Block-printing is the most tactile art. One can feel both the paint and the block.

How do you represent colour imagery?

Unfortunately, colour is something we haven’t been able to work with.

How did you choose the art?

We don’t. Abhaas is a tribute to the artists of Shantiniketan.

Why end with Binod Behari Mukherjee?

Binod Behari was born partially blind, then lost his eyesight completely, and continued to paint.

Where are you taking tactile representations next?

I am currently working with the maharaja of Jaipur to turn the Palace museum in Jaipur into a tactile one.

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