Fusing journalism and TB – telling the stories as they are

All it takes for evil…

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I normally add a little comment to guest contributions. But adding something to this is to take away from its essence and flavour. I urge readers to read on and discover this unique effort for themselves. Christo Mathews, Advocacy Officer, Global Health Advocates, India writes about the story behind the story of Chehera, an art exhibition to communicate messages on TB, which was held in New Delhi on 23&24 March 2011 to coincide with World TB Day. JATB is honoured to be able to feature this exclusive story.

Bharathi Ghanashyam

“All it takes for evil (read tuberculosis) to prevail in this world is for good men (and women) to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke, paraphrased

Fittingly, it started out of Hope; ‘Hope’, an exhibition that one of us in Global Health Advocates India (GHA) attended in early 2010. Experiencing the concept of art bathing social issues in a light of its mysterious own was the beginning of the adventure that was Chehera – The human face of TB.


Connecting the DOTS (pun intended) of art communicating the message of TB and the potential of its reach and impact led to our collaborating with the Art for Change Foundation and the Confederation of Indian Industry on a project designed to provide a hard look at a disease for communities and individuals who view TB as a disease that only happens to the next person.

The focus was narrowed down to targeting groups like the corporates, for whom TB is ostensibly far removed yet whose productivity numbers belie the effect that this disease has on their top and bottom lines. The potential that this sector has as a participant in this battle is immense; from running TB programs in their workspaces on TB treatment and control to creating technologies to tackle the disease on various fronts to using their influence within and without the system to work on policies that favour the patient, the sky nay eradication is the limit.

Similar was the logic with which we looked at the art connoisseur; an engagement with another segment which is, in itself, a cross section of society, the need to harness the views and efforts of yet another constituency in this drive


against the disease. ‘TB, not as usual’ was our buzzphrase for this effort.

Cut to scene –August ’10 – a group of artists, along with us, pay a visit to the Rajan Babu TB Hospital in Delhi. A brief sensitization session is conducted by the most helpful hospital management. The artists then go to the wards and meet with the patients and those who care for them. Multiple discussions abound. Most of the patients are surprisingly unperturbed about lifting the veils into their past and present. Consent granted, a few photographs are clicked.
The same scene is conducted – with another set of artists – the next month. Post that, the experience culminates in an art camp held over the period of a week; a time of interpreting the knowledge, interaction and perspectives over endless warm cups of masala chai. Visiting the insoluble connections between the ‘them’ and the ‘us’ and everything that surrounds.

Cut to March ’11 – 38 pieces by 22 artists that open windows of all sizes into the lives of those afflicted by TB ready to exhibit. Depicted in the art are emotions, experiences, aspirations, dreams; some are of the artists, some of the subjects and others of the affected families.


Add to our partner mix, the Religare Arts Initiative Ltd. who open up their gallery in Connaught Place to host this exhibition. A delightful catalogue is generated featuring thoughts from the partners, from the National TB Program and moving commentaries on each work by their respective creator.

This is not a press release – the exhibition has been given extensive coverage – so I end this piece quoting the words of Stefan Eicher, Executive Director, Art for Change Foundation, an artist I met in August ‘10 who, in March ’11, has become a dear friend. “As we engaged with patients from all walks of life—students, homeless, mothers, taxi-drivers, government employees, even a convict in a ward with bars and a policeman on duty—the breadth of the disease’s reach struck us, along with the humanness of each tragedy: an old man lying in a bed abandoned by his family, a woman turned out of her home and planning her divorce on getting better, a boy asking us to photograph the man in the next bed, rather than himself, as he feared being recognized locally.”

He speaks for the artists in particular but the sentiment truly resonates with all of us fortunate enough to be a part of this project.

Global Health Advocates India is a non-governmental organization that focuses on engaging all sections of society to fight diseases that disproportionately affect people living in poverty, and are also causes of people living in poverty. In particular, Global Health Advocates India works towards the formulation and implementation of effective public policies to fight disease and ill health in India.

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Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

March 28, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Posted in TB and Media

2 Responses

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  1. BG i love and admire the awareness that has been raised through your blog. those paintings are incredible.

    Anu Kalgudi

    March 29, 2011 at 10:34 am

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