Published: 21st August 2019
From LGBT positivity to zentangle pandas, why Rhiti Chatterjee Bose's art is important
Rhiti studied at Manchester Metropolitan University and was looking for a job keenly, that's when the assignment with the Refugee Council came up
The Gateway Protection Programme, which was launched by the Brtish government in partnership with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and co-funded by the European Union, allows a certain number of UNHCR-identified refugees to resettle in the UK. Rhiti Chatterjee Bose was employed as a Teacher at the Refugee Council from 2004 to 2005 and was overseeing the progress of three to four children and one of them was Reuben. This child from Liberia was scarred by the memories of his mother and sister being raped. He was handed a gun at a very young age and encouraged to kill without mercy during the Civil War.
Rhiti sat with him through the classes in school and explained to him, and the others she was in charge of, the lessons that were being taught. Alas, her contract with the council came to an end and with that, goodbyes were in order. When she walked up to the child and was about to say an already hard goodbye, the otherwise silent Reuben looked up and speaking for the first time with Rhiti, said, “Reuben sad.” This heartbreaking moment sparked an epiphany in the heart of Rhiti. “There are many things in life which we just quit not knowing the impact we left behind,” she ruminates. Now, she is 40, settled in Bhubaneswar and still carries with her the memories of Reuben. “Maybe I was unable to help Reuben back then, but maybe in the future, I can help others,” says the mother of two. And how does she want to reach out, you ask? Through art, of course.
Pretty picture: An artwork by Rhiti | (Pic: Art At Isana)
Art on FB
Named after her children Ahana and Ishaan, the Facebook page Art by Isana might not have many likes, but she gets quite some work in terms of commissioned art pieces. “I shifted to zentangle and mandala painting for some peace and quiet because at one point, my children drove me mad and my madness drove me to art,” shares Rhiti who was born in Barrackpore, West Bengal. Her father Dr Sankar Chatterjee is a renowned artist and is on her speed dial as she consults him for colour schemes and other painting-related queries, otherwise, she is a completely self-taught artist. She even bagged some freelance work including doing illustrations for Surendra Nath, for his translation of Padmashree Haldhar Nag’s epic poem on Shri Krishna, which has 21 chapters. “I did 21 paintings each in zentangle and mandala style depicting the life of Shri Krishna. The book is due for release soon,” she says excitedly.
Rhiti also has a Diploma in Child Psychology and Psychotherapy. After coming back from the UK, she trained others in communication and soft skills
Talking about Rhiti’s Facebook page, we ask her about the panda artwork we spotted, done in zentangle-style. She laughs as she answers, “My daughter asked me why I paint only for grown-ups and it was upon her request that I painted the panda.” Scroll down further and you’ll see some pro-LGBTQIA+ paintings as well. As a part of the community, she supports the group whole-heartedly. But don’t get her wrong, her intention while painting is not to sell them and become a painter. “I don’t want to see my paintings hang on the walls of famous people, I want to go back to my roots and teach,” she says emotionally. Sometime in the future, she intends to conduct art therapy workshops and help people come out of their misery, just like she did.
Some of her art work
Life lessons from Rhiti
- It's okay to make mistakes, but you need to own up to them
- Be kind to each and every one
- Start small, but start
- We can't change everything, but we can help change one person
- My motto is - "I don't aim for the stars, I am happy on my planet"
For more of her artwork, check out bit.ly/2KS8Du8