During the Pandemic

My brother's are sleeping And me I am busy working.


During the Pandemic

During the Pandemic presents art works of children from violent homes in Nagaland (India). As a collaborative exhibition with children, guardians, social workers, researchers, and grassroots organisations, this project celebrates art made by vulnerable children to share their experiences of the pandemic. 

The exhibition offers how children depict relationships, childhood, and the world around them. Perpetrators, victims, siblings, friends, nurses, birds and animals are portrayed. Mountains, rivers, schools, houses, rice fields, ice-creams, and airplanes appear alongside flowers, clouds, roads and sunrise. Sorrow, joy, intimidation, and fear are illustrated next to dancing ballerinas and princesses. Curated by anthropologist Dolly Kikon, in partnership with Sisterhood Network and Prodigal’s Home (Nagaland), this exhibition is part of an ongoing campaign to address gender violence in Nagaland. 

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic among indigenous communities has been enormous. Especially, for societies already experiencing armed conflict, structural violence, poverty, and unemployment, the pandemic and the lockdowns have posed significant challenges. In Nagaland, a tribal hill state in Northeast India, reports of domestic violence and mental health escalated during the pandemic risking the lives and security of women and children. A 2020 Nagaland State Social Welfare Board survey showed that 74% of women who experience physical and sexual violence in Nagaland do not report it to authorities or seek help. Besides that, majority cases of child abuse go unreported due to fear of stigma. Naga traditional councils and customary law including cultural associations and churches continue to sidestep the matter.

The Process

During the Pandemic is a testament of collaborations based on mutual respect, trust, and solidarity. Anthropologist Dolly Kikon, Sisterhood Network, and Prodigal’s Home came together to campaign against sexual violence in 2014. Among other initiatives, the monograph Life and Dignity (2015) was part of their joint collaboration to address physical and sexual violence in Naga society. Since then, they have sustained the partnership and participated in campaigns to address gender violence in Nagaland.

In 2020, as friends reaching out to support one another during the lockdown in Australia and India, Dolly and Azungla’s conversations centered on the lives of women and children from vulnerable homes in Nagaland. Back home in Nagaland, Ela Sani and Azungla James, along with the organisations they worked for, were involved in rehabilitating women and children from abusive partners. The work was overwhelming and exhausting. Over the months, grassroots organizations faced challenges as the volume of gender violence related cases increased. Besides the psycho-social impact of the pandemic and increased workload on frontline social workers in Nagaland, the everyday trauma and difficulties for victims from violent homes was enormous.

Since the lockdown in India, schools have been shut to reduce the risk of infection. Many vulnerable children from violent homes have been unable to attend online schools due to the prevailing situation at home. They are also unable to afford mobile phones and computers. As a consequence, many children from such homes have dropped out of school during the pandemic. Grassroots organizations like Sisterhood Network and Prodigal’s Home have not only rehabilitated women and children but also provided resources like tuition and support for young persons who are impacted by violence at home.

During the Pandemic stands up with children and women impacted by gender-based violence. It celebrates the lives of vulnerable children, commitment of social workers, care providers, policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and volunteers in Nagaland and beyond.

As social workers like Azung and Ela worked with victims of gender violence, this meant long hours of meetings with lawyers, police, and traditional councils. The lockdown and the absence of school meant children from violent homes, and those rescued and staying in rehabilitation homes were also bored. They started drawing and sketching to keep themselves occupied. This is how the idea of holding an online art exhibition developed. Once the children, guardians, and social workers learnt about the art exhibition project, they were excited. Their art works to be exhibited! Really? Yeah! This was the feeling and the spirit. In the last four months, long emails and conversations between Melbourne and Dimapur kept everyone busy. From organizing volunteers, briefing social workers, seeking permission from the children and guardians, all the way to arranging time and space, crayons, and papers for the children to draw transformed everyone. 

I am a Princess

Police man came dad in jail

The artist currently lives in a rehabilitation home and is in second grade. She used to work for a Naga family as a domestic help who regularly abused her.

She said, “It [the art] is about my past. My parents live in the village and work in a farm. We speak on the phone. I do not know if they will come and meet me.”

Daddy please don’t drink alcohol

This five-year-old artist is from a violent home. He wants a safe home.

He said, “I do not want my father inside the home. So, I built him a separate room.”

Go Corona

The artist worked as a domestic help in a Naga household. She was regularly abused. Currently, she lives in a rehabilitation home.

She explained her art in Nagamese, “He is my brother. He is the only family I have. I left my studies to support his education. I used to work as a domestic help to earn money and send him to school. It was a hard life but I wanted to help him” [translated by Dolly Kikon].

Colors of Hope

The artist worked as a domestic help in a Naga household. She was regularly abused. Currently, she lives in a rehabilitation home.

She explained her art in Nagamese, “He is my brother. He is the only family I have. I left my studies to support his education. I used to work as a domestic help to earn money and send him to school. It was a hard life but I wanted to help him” [translated by Dolly Kikon].


Dolly Kikon

Dolly is a Senior Lecturer in Development Studies and Anthropology at the School of Social and Political Sciences. She has a PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University. She is the Deputy Associate Dean (India Strategy) at the Faculty of Arts, and the Senior Research Advisor (SRA-Governance) at the Australia India Institute (Melbourne).

Ela Sani, Director, Prodigal’s Home

Prodigals’ Home emerged to address the issue of drug abuse, treatment and Rehabilitation of drug addicts and alcoholics and eventually into Targeted Intervention on HIV/AIDS among IDU’s, FSW’s and vulnerable children and youth. Over the years, the organisation has ventured into the fields of Community Health in general, Women and Child Development, Rural Development, Research and Documentation and facilitation and mentoring of upcoming grassroots organisations. The organisation also addresses the problem of the marginalised senior citizens and PWDs (persons with disability) and the issue of human trafficking.

Azungla James, Director, Sisterhood Network

Sisterhood Network believes empowering women, socially, economically, educationally, spiritually, politically and legally, is essential to building stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men, families, and communities. It thereby commits to livelihood skills training programmes, women’s collectives, women entrepreneurship and holistic community development initiatives.

Its advocacy spans child rights, right to education, gender equality and freedom from domestic violence. It strives for a conducive and equitable community by engaging in dialogues, campaigns and legal interventions.

Longshibeni Kikon

Longshibeni works as the Operational Head with Toka MPCS in Dimapur. She has a MA in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati.

Joel Rodrigues

Joel is an independent researcher based in Guwahati. He has completed his MA in Peace and Conflict Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati.

Get Involved

Any help and contribution will greatly benefit the rehabilitation programmes, educational needs, and various care and advocacy activities at Sisterhood Network and Prodigal’s Home.

Azungla James, Director, Sisterhood Network

House #136, Central Apartment,

Near Nagarjan Police Point,

Dimapur – 797112

Nagaland, India




Ela Sani, Director, Prodigal’s Home

NSCB Building, 5th Floor,


Dimapur – 797112

Nagaland, India




To learn about the exhibition or questions regarding intersecting research and advocacy work, feel free to contact me at: dollykikon[at]gmail[dot]com

© 2024 Dr. Dolly Kikon. All Rights Reserved