From that iconic speech by Martin Luther King Jr about 60 years ago to the several movements and advocacy for the preservation and respect of human rights and dignity, the struggle to raise awareness for service to humanity and promotion of good values to ensure fair treatment of all humans is still as critical as it has ever been. The greatest creed of humanity should be that each one has a role to play to make the world a better place. What that means is that the responsibility of serving humanity by proffering solutions to recurring challenges now rests on the shoulders of each one of us, and so we must rise to the occasion and serve our purpose to the best of our ability.
As humans, we are obligated to use any skill or asset in our arsenal for humanity. For some of us, it could be music, our profession or skill. For Irfan Khan and Rittyz Kashyap, it is Art. Using their platform, Arth Art for humanity, the duo has put together a formidable team to strive for the good of humanity using their hands and brushes. They are supported by a team driven by a passion for social art and a unified purpose, comprising individuals like Geetika Jatta Kaul, Pallavee Mahanta, Sangeeta Sarma, and Zabitah Resha, along with advisors and volunteers.
The idea of using art for purposes that are in service to humanity was borne out of the realization that art is a unifying factor, bringing together the rich and the poor. If anything is going to make a significant change in the world, art has a good chance. According to Kashyap, the organization has just one purpose and that is to promote the cause of humanity. “As the name goes, our holistic goal is to serve humanity through solutions that have art in their core or those triggered by art.
“Since inception, our work has been primarily focused on environment and art and culture, besides interventions in the space of mental health and menstrual hygiene,” he says.
The journey has not been an easy one, as there have been several challenges along the way. Describing their first big break after several obstacles, Kashyap says, “Our first project was in March 2018 for Humana People to People India and London-based environmental group, ‘Urban Green Movement‘. One of their international educators, Nadezda, reached out to us. It was an overwhelming response for all of us. We had the opportunity to conduct a few environmental workshops along with The Concrete Tree in the middle of a park in Gurgaon.”
About three years after, it has been one success story after another. Khan highlights a few notable milestones that are forever bonded to his memory. “Done during Metropolis Asia’s 2018 event in Shillong, Fish for Good is one of such stories. For this, behavioural change communication got replicated by another community in a village in Nongpoh. Also, a series of expressive art therapy workshops were conducted during the 2018 Kerala Flood in Allupuzha district, and the IEC design assignment in the form of the 2021 Calendar for German non-profit, Welthungerhilfe’s India office,” he adds.
Although there may be several other establishments with the same purpose, he believes when it comes to service to humanity, there is none quite like Arth. The duo describes the distinguishing factor of Arth as “staying true to its purpose of using art as an agent of social change, which lies at the core of Arth Art for Humanity.”
The team believes in working together with the community to achieve a singular purpose, as the fight is bigger than just one person, or a group of people. Khan says, “We strongly believe in collaborating with like-minded people in achieving targets that can benefit the society at large, we have been doing so and we intend to continue. We all remember the song ‘Ek Chidiya, Anek Chidiya‘, don’t we? That is the power of collaboration.”
Talking about the challenges that have come their way, Kashyap tells, “Apart from financial crunches, which is a recurring issue for social businesses, the main challenge that we have faced since the onset of this pandemic is to keep the relationships intact with the communities. Right at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the young beneficiaries who were part of a life skill training we were undertaking in Delhi got affected as most of the children had to move back with their parents to their villages. However, we strongly feel, ‘This too shall pass.”
Lockdown 2020 came with many lessons for Arth Art for Humanity like everyone else, an important one being exploring the digital medium.
Arth Art for Humanity in collaboration with Storyweavers celebrated Rongali Bihu using the platform of Instagram. #BihuSocial witnessed the coming together of popular Assamese artists like Deeplina Deka, Neelim Mahanta, Pallab Baruah, Sukanya Baruah, Tanvi Sharma and Vreegu Kashyap among others, and was able to reach out to 35k plus people in three days who managed to get a taste of Bihu while social distancing from the safety of their homes. #BihuSocial was followed by series of digital events where eminent personas like Forest Man Jadav Payeng, Water Man Rajendra Singh, Kamla Bhasin of One Billion Rising Movement, and Arghadeep Baruah from Amis fame spoke on topics encompassing environment, women empowerment and menstrual hygiene among others.
So far, these social entrepreneurs have been able to achieve a lot with their art. Thinking progressively, they believe the next step involves delving deeper into the realm of information, education and communication (IEC). There are also plans to collaborate with the government towards providing solutions regarding waste management projects that are yet to kick off in one of the Northeastern states.