Tedx Talk – How I Followed My Dreams

I read fiction all the time, and watch films. I love human stories that gives us joy, makes us laugh and cry, enriches us with understanding of other beings. I do theatre with children and youth, a way to reflect on our society and celebrate our rich cultural heritage. Because I am an image person, I remember things better in visual form, as compared to words or numbers.

My father used to own a cloth shop. I remember when I was in my teens, I used to go every day and spend couple of hours there. I was less interested in helping the customers, but was fascinated by the designs, patterns, colours and textures around me.

I studied computer sciences in my college, the subject in which I graduated with a love/hate relationship. I tried working professionally in computer sciences but was unable to do so because my heart was not in it. It was very hard to let down the aspirations of my family to leave a socially perceived lucrative career for the love of arts, which apparently does not carry a future for a person coming from a middle class background with no professional training in arts.

I started to practice theatre, photography and graphic design myself, which eventually earned me an arts management fellowship at the DeVos Institute of Arts Management, at the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts, Washington D.C.

I was passionate to work with children and young people, and upon my return in 2007 from US, I joined Ali Institute of Education and started to teach drama education. I was teaching drama education there. Soon enough I realized that training 20 teachers in 6 month’s time is good but might not create the change I seek. In order to create more social space for the idea of arts education, larger platforms are needed for children and youth in Pakistan where families can be engaged in creative learning experiences.

I founded The Little Art because I wanted to give children and young people, coming from any background, an equal opportunity to experience arts at least once in their lives. If they love it, they might pursue it professionally. Still if they don’t, they will at least get a sense of appreciation and might enjoy art, literature and films in their future life.

I realized that our society has not decided what a child is, let aside understanding their social and psychological needs. I believe that children are independent human beings. They have an equal right to do, believe and experience whatever they are curious about.

Many people believe that we shall tell children only what I believe or consider right, which is against critical thinking or creative possibilities of human life. That if what you know is a believed truth, then what you don’t know or believe might be true. Taking an example for a minor, that you don’t have the right of opinion. You will have to obey what I say because either I am elder or stronger then you. This, one way or the other affects children.

Children learn through actions and reactions, they imitate us sometimes that need a close observation. This is how they learn to speak and walk. Observations are what we use in arts the most. For example, in theater, actors play the roles from real-life observation. If they have not seen the character, they use their imaginations. Hence theater and other art forms are very close to the way we humans learn.

Creative imagination is so important in human life that it does not only needed for the arts or artists. We all have heard the story of Newton and the falling apple. What happens there? If Isaac Newton would be a person without creative imagination, the fall of the apple would be any ordinary fall and we would not be able to understand the gravity and there would be no laws of motion.

In our times, we have so many examples that how the technology was built once the possibility of it was shown in a movie. In most of the cases, the artistic desires lead the technology and invention.

The Little Art is a non-profit arts education organization that uses the medium of art to promote education and positive social values through innovative learning opportunities among children and young people, specially marginalized and from low-income backgrounds.

Through my work at The Little Art, I envision a world led by young people who understand they can realize dreams they did not even know existed. This world for them is one free from restraints; so that they will become leaders with character, compassion, empathy, confidence and responsibility. We value the arts as the most powerful medium to facilitate the dreams of each child; and inspire them to turn their dreams into realities.

Shoaib Iqbal
May 2014.



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