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Outlet for creative expression

April 7 - 13, 2010
Gulf Weekly Outlet for creative expression

ART and music not only transcends cultural boundaries it also provides a unique opportunity for people of all abilities to express themselves.

'Art-abled', an art exhibition organised by the British Council Bahrain, does just that by showcasing the handiwork of eight children and young adults with varying abilities and disorders.

The showcase can be viewed at the British Council premises in Salmaniya from Sunday. Officials say that while it aims to demonstrate that even the most severe disabilities are not an obstacle to creativity and artistic expression, it also advocates the international cultural organisation's commitment to equal opportunity and diversity.

These young artists aged nine to 30, from Bahrain, the UK, India, Malaysia and Pakistan may suffer from autism, Down's syndrome, attention deficit disorder, or different developmental disabilities but their canvases ripple with energy offering them an outlet of expression and communication.

Their work impressed Social Development Minister Dr Fatima Al Balooshi, who opened the exhibition at Bahrain City Centre last week. She said: "Art is one way of expression that is very important and vital for the disabled and we encourage it. These paintings are wonderful and are a reflection of what the children feel and how they can see things.

"This is why when the British Council invited me to come I said, definitely, I will be there especially for our children."

Speaking volumes of their interests, likes and dislikes, these young Picassos have adorned their paintings with subjects as varied as cars, television channel logos, faces and abstract designs using poster paint, crayons and pencils.

A delighted Christine Gordon, founder of Rehabilitation Institute of Active Learning (RIA) whose students have taken part in the exhibition, said: "It is a great feeling to see this exhibition happen not only because it has been great fun for the children but also because it has given them a chance to explore their talent while encouraging them.

"A lot of this is really good. You could actually put it up on your wall and it is a pleasure to look at."

One of the more evocative artists is Nada Ebrahim Al Sindi, 20, an intermediate student at the West Riffa School. She suffers from mild mental retardation and needs supervision.

Although she can only just about manage to read Arabic signboards she is a completely different person when it comes to art and music. Give her a piece of paper and pencil and she can produce, within minutes, a fantastic piece of art work. Gifted with a musical ear she can play several tunes on her keyboard and is tutored by a visually-impaired teacher.

Two years ago her mother, Dr Eman Al Nasser, who works at the Ministry of Education in Isa Town, organised Nada's first solo art exhibition with 70 paintings. Dr Eman, who was conferred with the 'Award of Shaikha Fariha Al Ahmed Al Sabah for the Ideal Mother in Kuwait and the Gulf', last year, said: "There is a gap between Nada's age and mental abilities. This does not mean I am disappointed and dejected and that I have stopped her learning.

"I sit with her everyday and give her different tasks in reading, writing, and mathematics - small things to keep her busy. She is talented in music and can read Arabic. She is slow but she can manage.

"She loves to draw faces and every one of them is different. They are always girls whom she calls her friends and every one has a different name. I am very impressed how she uses her imagination to add detail ... she is very natural.

"So many parents are disappointed when they are faced with such a situation but Nada is my inspiration. I took my masters degree and my PhD from Bahrain University after she was born. She has made me strong and such events only fill me with pride."

The showcase has also provided an opportunity for many children who are yet unable to work independently. One painting has four artists bring a colourful peacock to life literally using their fingerprints. And another by Mishari Fathi has him stick little pieces of paper within the outline of his hands drawn around a smiley face.

Art teacher, Detty Lopecillo, who has been working at RIA for the last two years, said that the only way to work with these special children is with lots of patience, understanding and persuasion. While the work is hard she believes the rewards are immense.

She said: "Every child I work with is unique. I need to give them one-on-one attention. Initially, I used to pray to God to help me work with them, but now I am comfortable and feel very happy and proud of their achievements."

For more details on the exhibition contact British Council's project manager arts and science, Rayyah Fathalla on 39966841.

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