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Malika Art's Week Malika Art's Week

Real Life History: Children’s Art Week 2 - 2021

13 July 2021

Continuing our celebration of Children’s Arts, we’ve ventured back in the archives to 1960, and to the St Joseph’s Leprosy Home in Tuticorn, South India, to bring you the story of a beautiful little girl called Malika. Here she is, age seven, dancing – her great love and an art form that has brought comfort and a sense of belonging to many throughout the ages. 


A colourised image of Malika from 1960.

“Although Malika has never been to school, she is very smart and quick to learn any dance that is taught to her…She has no real home, if she is cured where will she go? At present she is as happy as a lark always singing and dancing.” - LEPRA Magazine 1969 no 1.

All of her close family were affected by leprosy, and, horrifically, her father threw her mother and Malika out of their home “without pity” when he found out about their diagnosis. With her mother, brother and sister all living with advanced leprosy, and at this time no effective cure, dancing brought Malika happiness, escaping from the feeling of loneliness thrust upon her by a society which rejected her and other people affected by leprosy. Her future is uncertain but for now dancing is everything to her. See how she has made up her face so entrancingly, her headdress and jewellery enhancing her smile and her laughing eyes as she shares her dance with us.

At Lepra we are proud to showcase such a brave child in our journals from the 1960s. Her resilience in the face of extreme prejudice is admirable. She has absorbed herself in her dancing, learnt from her mother and grandmother, so that even when she was displaced and alone, living in a leprosy settlement, she could feel close to her family and bring joy to others.

If you’re inspired by Malika’s story, we encourage you to get up and dance this week. You could involve your family and friends too, perhaps they’ll know a traditional dance or have a memory of dancing that they’d love to share with you- you can share it with us too via our social media; @LepraUK on Twitter, @Lepra on Facebook or @leprauk on Instagram.