The dual system of vocational education and training (VET) in Germany – consisting of training in a vocational training centre and practicing in a company – is world-renowned. It is the base of Germany’s economy. In Europe and in western countries, in general, the practice of vocational training is looked upon highly. Blue-collar workers – electrician, plumber, mason and the like – are considered as highly skilled workers and earn a good income. This system of vocational education guarantees a high degree of skills and employability for the students, saves money for the government, and delivers qualified people to the industries.
However, the situation in India is not too inviting. Blue-collar workers do not get the professional respect and income they deserve, in spite of their possessing special skills. Here a mainstream degree counts for much more. MBA is the craze among youngsters. A white-collar worker – one who performs professional, managerial, or administrative work – is given much more respect.
According to Rainer Schmiedchen, Germany’s consul general in Kolkata, the Indian government is very interested in applying Germany’s vocational training system here too. Agreements on Indo-German cooperation in the field of VET were signed in 2011.
Rainer Schmiedchen has been a fan of comics too, for as long as he can remember. He wanted to start a cultural tradition in the city to show his gratitude to the city, which would continue even after he leaves.
These two aspects, love of comics and training and recognition of blue-collar workers, were uniquely brought together to form the basis of the first International Kolkata Comic Workshop held at the German consulate from November 26-28. According to the German consul general, Germany wanted to support the process of India showing interest in this vocational learning system by interesting the public (by using comics).
At the same time, 2013 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty, also known as the Treaty of Friendship, which was signed between France and Germany in 1963 to form the basis of a new order of friendship, to end centuries of rivalry between them.
To celebrate this as well, the German and French consulates came together to organise this first-of-its kind workshop. With the increasing popularity of graphic novels, as comic books are often called now, this workshop formed the basis of the meeting of minds interested in learning techniques of creating comics, exchanging ideas, and creating awareness about issues.
Courtesy: The Telegraph
Invited to lead the workshop were four top notch graphic artists –
- Olivier Tallec, a Paris-based illustrator with over 60 books to his credit
- Jorg Reuter, art director for German magazine, Mosaik
- Sarnath Banerjee, originally from Kolkata and one of the most famous graphic artists from India, now based in Berlin
- Charbak Dipta, a Delhi-based Bengali illustrator, currently working on his first graphic novel
Also attending were the men behind the organising, Rainer Schmiedchen and Fabrice Etienne, the consul general of France in Kolkata, the people who inaugurated the workshop as well.
The participants of the workshop were students of graphic from the West Bengal. They came mainly from Rabindra Bharati University, Visva Bharati University and Government College of Art and Craft. Besides these, a number of independent comics artists and cartoonists also participated at the workshop.
The primary purpose of the workshop was satisfied through the creation of comic-book material highlighting a story on the dignity of blue-collar work. A Bengali boy flies to Germany to study skill of making roofs. There he also discovers many connections between Germany and India. On the way back, he meets a girl on the flight who had gone to France to learn the art of baking. They fall in love, marry and establish successful businesses in their respective fields.
Olivier, Jorg, Sarnath and Charbak, each focused on different aspects of the story. Each brought his own unique style to their creations, but the end result was a perfect fusion.
The participants also lent their ideas to the creative process. It was a fruitful collaboration. For the students and other participants, there was a lot to learn. They were inspired to create comic books and to use graphic art to give vent to their ideas in different ways.
Put to good use
The comic book about the blue-collar worker created at the workshop would be published as a book for children by the German consulate. It would be used to promote interest in vocational education and impress on children that higher educational qualifications are not the only way to a good career; vocational training is equally respectable. In developed countries, blue-collar workers are not only considered an equal to other workers, but also paid well. It is hoped that if children start taking interest, as they grow up, they will spread the good word, and help in removing people’s stigma against taking up such training.
The first International Kolkata Comic Workshop also gave participants the chance to learn a lot from masters of the form. All were enthusiastic, not only about learning the finer points of creating graphic novels but also about interacting with some of the biggest names in the field from India and abroad.
According to Mr Schmiedchen, “This unique workshop is intended to address the young generation of this country and build public relation so that they are acquainted to the history and culture of our country and vice versa. Comic novels are mostly read and loved by the young lot and we want to make this International Kolkata Comic Workshop a permanent tradition between the three nations.”