Creativity and enterprise can flourish even in captivity. These are not caged by four walls. The mind and spirit are always free to explore avenues beyond the surroundings. Furniture, multi-purpose bags, kitchen apparel, storybooks, wall hanging storage for children to packaged ready-to-eat food… these are not things you would generally associate with jail inmates. But the recent ‘Jail Se’ exhibition mounted by the NID in collaboration with the Gujarat State Prison Department (Sabarmati Central Jail) showed that there is more to the identity of jail inmates than their crimes.
The initiative was brought together by the post-graduate students of Furniture and Interior design at the NID and was guided by associate senior faculty Pravin Sinh Solanki. It was created under the aegis of ‘Guj Pride’—a state government-led organisation to encourage employment of the central jail inmates through various approaches such as baking, textiles, weaving furniture, and binding press. All the products at the ‘Jail Se’ exhibition were developed by prison inmates with some professional help and guidance from the NID team.
Talking to Vibes of India, Deva, a student of NID, shared his experience of visiting jails as part of the collaboration. “The reel life had created an image of an incarcerated man like someone to be scared of. But when we entered the prison premises we realised that the inmates were just like common people. Sure they had made a mistake or two, but they too yearned for a second chance in life. They craved an identity beyond that of a prisoner and wanted to showcase their skills to the outer world. Don’t we all deserve a second chance when we falter?” he asked.
While the craving for an identity as a skilled person was there in most of the inmates, it was a task for the NID team to zero in on how best to showcase them. The team studied the various machines and materials used by the jail inmates and tried to gauge their skills while merging them with available resources.
There were many items being produced within the jail premises by the inmates. But due to poor packaging and lack of proper hygiene, these were not attractive enough to be able to reach an appreciative market. To fix the lacunae, the NID team designed a logo along with proper packaging that would present the items manufactured by the inmates professionally to people.
Aashish Khaire, a final year post-graduate design student of NID, who created the ‘square chair’ as part of the exhibition, talked to Vibes of India about overcoming hurdles while helping the inmates. “Furniture manufacture generally requires highly skilled labour because the designs are not easy. Needless to say, the furniture manufacturing unit in the jail was the least appealing to the inmates. We tackled the issue by guiding unskilled inmates to produce furniture with minimal training. We made use of simple ways of cutting and drilling that eliminated the need for skilled training. And we achieved this by using the available machines in the jail. Even the canvas backrest and seating of the chair was created by the inmates,” he said.
As they say, if you put your mind to it, nothing is really impossible.