Retracing the footsteps we left behind

The primary objective of the Laboratory of Smiles has always been of exploring and discovering one’s self and being able to express through the medium of the arts. Back in 2009, we decided to extend the medium to photography and videography. After a month’s workshop in the West Bank in Palestine, we moved our photography workshop to Chimbel, one of the largest slums in Goa.

Our workshop at Chimbel happened over two years, 2009 and 2010, and it has been 5 years since we’ve gone back. Our 10 year celebration of Laboratory of Smiles this year urged us to go back to Chimbel to trace all our little photographers to see how they were doing.

We were hoping we’d find at least some of them but Chimbel surprised us once again. When we arrived, there was only one (who was anything but little!)  waiting for us, but after a few hops from one door to the other, and several whatsapp messages, ALL 12 photographers had magically appeared. The tiniest had become the tallest and the naughtiest now stood in a corner very shy.

Il gruppo Fotografia Chimbel 2009 - 2016

Our fantastic group reunion this year

We chatted a while getting to know what they all were doing. Most of the them were in college now and a few were employed. It took just a couple of minutes to break the ice between the boys and the girls and soon they were back being their old silly selves!

Stories were exchanged and our memories refreshed. But what was most exciting was that every single child still had their photo albums from the workshop safely stored. Some, even had the point-and-shoot camera we had given them…and it STILL WORKED!


Paola with the boys going through old albums

Here’s a THEN and NOW series of our photographers. It was such fun doing this!

Aisha 2016 Amjad 2016Irfan 2016As we photographed each of the children, we were invited by all the families and we hopped from one home to the other eating and drinking a variety of foods and drinks that were served to us.

Chimbel is a very special place. For over 30 years, migrants from all over the country, irrespective of caste or religion, have walked into Chimbel to find themselves a home. (Not to mention, this is the largest vote bank Goa has!) Like in every community, this slum also has its own problems of ill-hygiene, alcoholics and violence but amidst all the squalor what stands out are the open doors and broad smiles that welcome you when you pass by.

Altaf, now 20 years old, in his photo exhibition 6 years ago had described beautifully the true essence of what Chimbel was about. This is how he saw Chimbel:

“Chimbel has many fields. In one field Christians are buried. In one field garbage is collected. In another field Muslims say their prayers and in another they are buried when they die. There is a field where they burn Hindus and there is also one field where children play. Chimbel is beautiful.”

February 8, 2016 at 6:59 am Leave a comment

90 children, 3 shows and a lot of loading and unloading!

February 7, 2016 at 10:28 am Leave a comment

The beauty of backstage

Let’s begin by declaring that putting up a show in Goa is NOT an easy task. To add to that, we have THREE shows to put up. Calangute, our first venue, took place on 29th January and saw an audience of more than 600. It was wonderful but we had never imagined it to be half as beautiful when we arrived at 8am that morning.

The parking lot where the performance was to be held was full of buses parked and garbage EVERYWHERE. The aroma of stale urine filled the morning air and we had to be careful while walking as the ground was full of broken glass. In 6 hours, 90 children would arrive here ready to change into costumes and perform. How? We didn’t know.

After continuous phone calls to various individuals things started falling in place and we were ready to receive the children. All stress turned into joy when we saw 90 pairs of excited eyes waiting to show off their skills.

Here’s a little peek into the beauty of backstage.

Grande pubblico gruppo El Shaddai

The first bus arrives!

Siamo pronti

We welcome them into the world of theatre


Our aliens drying their face paint

Vishal il versione alieno

Vishal goofing around before the show


Our black puppeteers

Photos from the show coming up soon. Now, we’ve got to run for our second performance tonight at Panjim. We’ve already got calls about some other event scaffolding being put up where our stage is supposed to be. *sigh* Here we go again!

February 2, 2016 at 7:39 am Leave a comment

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