India International Centre
The Village Gallery



Art by Women Inmates of Tihar Jail

Conceptualized and Curated by Dolly Narang

The online exhibition is on view from 7th to 20th September 2020

A Brush With Hope

The monoprints in this exhibition were created by women inmates of Tihar jail in New Delhi during workshops conducted in early 1990s.

Prison reforms had always been a low priority and this was a path breaking initiative by *Dr. Kiran Bedi since her appointment as Inspector General (Prisons).  She encouraged the community to participate in her crusade to reform the prison system.  She welcomed my offer to bring art to the prison.

Bulbul Sharma, printmaker readily agreed to join me to conduct these workshops. Together we headed for Tihar for the first monoprinting workshop.

After initial hesitation the women inmates gradually became comfortable with the medium and their imaginations took flight. The same women who locked up in claustrophobic cells, their daily lives filled with tension and brawls over trivial issues were now enjoying the workshop.  The air was filled with laughter and camaraderie.  Some exciting and unexpected results emerged with vibrant abstract patterns, portraits and landscapes depicting with childlike innocence a house, trees and flowers in happy, bright colors. 

Tools were basic according to prison rules - no sharp or inflammable material.  So they worked and experimented with paint brushes, their fingers, leaves and grass strewn on the ground to create stencils, stuffed cloth balls to press down on the sheets to take the impression. Women from different backgrounds and income groups, varying levels of education or totally illiterate, experimented playfully, discovering with delight  their own ‘techniques’

What characterizes these monoprints is spontaneity which only the ease and comfort of the medium allows. These workshops were meant to give the women a relief from the trauma of imprisonment, separated from their families, their lives wasting in confinement. Their creativity was being unlocked and they were revelling in the release giving them a sense of self-worth and perhaps hope. 

Conceptualized and curated by Dolly Narang

(Please click here to view note on Monoprinting workshop in Tihar;  and note on the exhibition by Kazuko Longmuir, Canada)

* India Vision Foundation was established in 1994 when Dr. Kiran Bedi was conferred with the Ramon Magsaysay Award for forging ‘positive relationships’ between people and the police through creative leadership as Inspector General of Tihar, Asia’s largest prison. It was with the award money that she started this foundation, which seeks to carry forward its service in all those areas which were the basis of the award.

All monoprints are available on request. Please contact

Please click to view the exhibition