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Balaggan’s Coping Mechanism

A long way away from home, she is the lone woman in the painting group Muskan Balaggan, 25, is more than 7000 miles away from home in India. For the
30 Jul 2016 09:25
Balaggan’s Coping Mechanism
Muskan Balaggan’s painting portraying a blend of the Fiji and Indian cultures will feature at the art exhibition that will be held at the Tagimoucia Gallery in Suva from August 15 to 19. Photo: Fiji Corrections Service

A long way away from home, she is the lone woman in the painting group

Muskan Balaggan, 25, is more than 7000 miles away from home in India.

For the past five years, Fiji has been her home albeit under different circumstances – the five years have been part of a 13-year term she is serving behind bars.

Like most of her fellow inmates whose paintings adorn the walls of the Tagimoucia Gallery, Ms Balaggan’s talent is a newfound passion.

She is one of six inmates who work at the gallery and is the lone woman in the group.

As she prepares for the art exhibition hosted by the Fiji Corrections Service and Wildlife Conservation Society, she says art was for her a “coping mechanism”.

“When I started painting, it was God’s plan for me. 2 weeks after I started painting, I experienced a tragedy that broke me apart.

Art was my coping mechanism. When I was hurting, art taught me to make something out of that experience.

Art taught me to make something out of what breaks you,” she said.

She said when Cyclone Winston struck, at first it did not mean anything to her as a foreigner imprisoned in Fiji.

“I didn’t really feel the pain of the people who suffered the most as a result of Winston. But I have learned that every person has a ‘Winston’ moment in their life. When they pass that Winston, they become stronger. One of the Winston’s in my life was prison and as the days go by, I become stronger,” she said.

“In every painting you will see every prisoner’s story: the story of a prisoner who has gone through their own Winston, the story of a woman on the outside going through abuse and how she’s coming out strong.

“This exhibition is a way to show the public that people can and do change, that everybody makes mistakes and to give them a picture through our paintings that we are changed people.

We have grown stronger and when we go back into society we can be good examples and leaders for those going through the same problems and those on the verge of making similar mistakes.”

“Every colour has a meaning, your emotions and feelings are behind those colours. It was an exciting experience, an emotional experience when you think of all that you have been through and you are trying to put it into a painting, it’s not easy and it’s not difficult as well, you just need concentration and God’s help,” she said.

Sharing a poem she wrote recently about Cyclone Winston, Ms Balaggan said it was important for people to understand they couldn’t quit.

“People thought it was a setback for their lives.

But God turned and said, wait, no, it wasn’t a setback. It was a setup for a comeback,” she said.

The exhibition will be held at the Tagimoucia Gallery in Suva from August 15 – 19.

Source: Fiji Corrections Service

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