Published: 14th January 2020
Need to define how we look at design: Aishwarya Manivannan and the art within
Artist and educator Aishwarya Manivannan talkss about her journey in teaching art and practicing Silambam
A few months ago, we visited an art exhibition in Chennai. Each exhibit there was exceptional and told us stories about different facets of the human mind from depression to self-loathing. All the artists who had their work exhibited there were trained under artist and educator Aishwarya Manivannan, who runs Maisha Studio in the city. Aishwarya was undoubtedly proud of her students' work
A week back, we caught up with Aishwarya, who was a speaker at The New Indian Express' ThinkEdu Conclave 2020. "We must define how we look at art and design," she tells us over a cup of chai. "Everything around you is designed, right from this tumbler (pointing to the one in her hand) to this building. Yet, we don't look at it as a mainstream career in India," she says.
She tells us how she also teaches design thinking to her students. "My focus is more on design thinking these days. The idea is to get them thinking creatively. Creativity is the underlying factor in all fields," she says. Now if you think that her students are teenagers or youngsters, you're wrong. Her students' age ranges from 14 to 65. "You get to learn a lot more from people of other age groups. Usually, students only interact with their contemporaries. But that isn't the case when they enter the real world. So here, they get to experience it early on," she says.
While Aishwarya says that she always knew that she would be a teacher at some point in life, she obviously didn't expect it to happen this early in life. She founded Maisha Studio eight years ago. "After completing my Master's in Design, I took up corporate design for a while. Art and design always went side by side for me. But later I decided to move to take control of my time. That's very important in a creative career. That's how I started teaching," she says.
Apart from being an art educator, Aishwarya also performs Silambam, which is one of the oldest Indian martial arts. For someone who's been practicing Silambam for the past seven years, she tells us about how it all began. "I used to learn Bharatanatyam and seven years ago, I thought of restarting it after a break. My then Guru told me about how traditional martial arts can be helped in developing dance postures. So, I started researching traditional martial art forms and chanced upon Silambam. I practised it for almost 8 months to support my Bharatnatyam, but later, I gave a break to the dance form and started concentrating fully on Silambam," she says. The art form is more than 3,000 years old.
Years later, she is definitely happy to see more people taking up Silambam. "It is an art form, a self-defence tool and a sport. It is an excellent fitness regime that helps to maintain your body posture. Also, it gives you a lot of self-confidence," she says, giving us a lot more reasons to take up this martial arts form.