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Drawn to life

October 16 - 22, 2019
Gulf Weekly Drawn to life

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

Aspiring sketch artists and doodlers are being invited to take part in a global drawing campaign to encourage people to pick up the colourful art form as well as raise awareness about how creativity is linked to wellbeing.

The Big Draw is an international initiative founded in the UK in 2000 as an arts education charity that promotes visual literacy and the universal language of drawing as a tool for learning, expression and invention.

There are Big Draw events being held around the world and thanks to Sarah Clarke, daring doodlers and drawers can join in the artistic fun in Bahrain.

Sarah, author of the popular Baloo’s books based on her chocolate brown Labrador and founder of Baloo’s Buddies to include, enable and inspire children of all abilities, said: “After the success of our Trash to Treasure up-cycling extravaganza in April, I was looking for the next great art idea that we could use as a vehicle to champion inclusion and environmental awareness in a fun and accessible way. 

“I came across The Big Draw and signed Baloo’s Buddies up to organise an event. This year the event expects to attract more than 500,000 participants worldwide in more than 25 countries at no fewer than 1,000 events. Simply put, it’s a celebration of all forms of drawing to encourage people to grab a pencil, crayon, charcoal, chalk - anything really - and just draw!

“This year’s theme is “Drawn to Life” and the goal is to show how drawing and creativity can help our mental health; something which, in this increasingly fast moving, technologically driven world, can easily get overlooked as we try to juggle more and more things. 

“The more I thought about it, the more I realised that we could also use the “Drawn to Life” theme to benefit a wider audience in Bahrain, where sadly we have seen an increase in reported suicides. Perhaps drawing could in some small way, ease the burden of those in emotional distress?”

The event, which will be held at The Avenues – Bahrain’s Gate 3 - The Bay Gate on October 24-26 from 10am to 8pm, is themed Pathways to Wellbeing through the Art of Labyrinths.

“I chose the art of the labyrinths as our connection between drawing and mental wellbeing because labyrinths have been widely used by many cultures to support mental health, promote inner peace and improve general wellbeing,” added Sarah, whose Baloo’s Buddies programme is based in RIA Institute in Adliya.

“Unlike a maze, a labyrinth is not a puzzle to be solved; it’s a spiral course with a single, winding, unobstructed path from the outside to the centre. It comes in all shapes and sizes and can be permanent structures or lines made in the sand or ones you can trace with your finger, eyes or pencil.  They can be made from all sorts of materials - sand, pottery, wood, fabric, bottle tops.... just about anything really.  They are often found in gardens as places for quiet contemplation.”

Sarah has been visiting various venues and schools to paint pottery to include in a large labyrinth walkway.

She said: “It’s a hands-on art activity for all ages and abilities. You’ll be helping to make a large walkway out of pottery, a series of tactile finger pathways with buttons, shells and bottle tops, and your own labyrinth pathway on paper!

“We’ll make a giant, wheelchair accessible walkway out of more than 1,000 pieces of broken pottery. The pathway is designed by local artist Mohammed Taha to resemble a pearl shell and by using pottery donated by Delmon Pottery we’ve linked The Big Draw Bahrain to Bahrain’s pearling history and pottery expertise.”

At the event, children and adults will be taught how to design and draw a labyrinth on paper so that they can take away a tool with them that they may wish to use for relaxation and mindfulness. 

“Finally, we’ll create some tactile finger labyrinths so that visually impaired people and those with restricted mobility can also experience the art of labyrinths,” added Sarah. “Ultimately, we hope to relocate the finished pathway to a garden so that Bahrain has a permanent space where people can relax and simply breathe.” 

Students from Wild About Art Company were the first to jump in to show their support to the creative cause. According to Sarah, they painted more than 50 large pieces of pottery to create around 250 surprise “giveaways” for participants at the event.

She added: “Taking part in this kind of event is a great way to engage with the community and teach children not only about how drawing can positively improve mental wellbeing but also the importance of including everyone in activities regardless of their background and abilities. Sana Asad, who founded Wild About Art Company, has taken part in several Baloo’s Buddies Art for Autism Awareness events. We have a number of other groups lined up to paint pots and will happily deliver pots to anyone who wants to hold a Pot Painting Party before Sunday.”

This event also coincides with International Artist Day Celebration on October 25. Sarah and her squad are planning to celebrate that with a live art event on that day in which up to 24 local and international artists will decorate a series of wooden plinths with interpretations of Bahrain’s Big Draw theme.

The plinths were made by Nedhal Nooh and will be used to mount the tactile finger labyrinths. The plinths, along with the walking path and other labyrinths drawn at the three-day event will be exhibited at The Avenues until November 2.

RIA co-founder Christine Gordon MBE is delighted to be staging the first ever Big Draw Event in Bahrain with Sarah. The RIA Institute Bahrain is an inclusive education centre that caters to the needs of students with special needs. It was set up in 1999 by singer Christine Gordon and her husband, Dr Emad El-Attar, a chemist and fellow musician, to educate for children with learning difficulties such as her son Othmann, now 23, who is autistic.

 “To ensure that everyone can take part, we won’t just be drawing with pencils and paper in the conventional sense, we’ll be sticking, colouring, painting, sewing and more so that everyone can participate to the best of their abilities,” said Christine, the mother-of-three. “We’ll be using up-cycled, recycled and repurposed things to minimise our impact on the environment. All Baloo’s Buddies events are designed around the motto “Include Enable Inspire” spreading the message of inclusion in a fun and accessible way just by demonstrating by the way we run our activities what it means to be inclusive. There are sure to be a few signature up-cycled Drawn to Life t-shirt bags around to continue with our #nomoresingleuseplasticbags message.”

Children of any age or ability are welcome to take part in this free event. 

“One of the best things about this kind of hands-on events is that we engage with people from all walks of life,” added Sarah. “For some, simply making a connection with people in a fun and relaxed atmosphere gives them a mental boost and may help to reduce loneliness for those living a long way from home. What’s more, they will take away something that they can use to reduce stress in future. Baloo’s Buddies is indebted to a small team of dedicated volunteers who come out time and time again to lend a hand. Our projects wouldn’t be possible without their invaluable help.

“This project is entirely run by volunteers and donations in kind.  Companies who would like to support our event by donating equipment such as tables, chairs, protective flooring and paint are also very welcome to contact RIA.”

l Those that would like to join The Big Draw Bahrain – 2019 as a participant or volunteer, please contact Sarah Clarke on 38338064 or RIA on 1771 6871. Updates about The Big Draw Bahrain – 2019 can be found at www.thebigdraw.org/event/The_Big_Draw_Bahrain_Pathways_to _Wellbeing/8955

Vote for your favourite Big Draw Festival Event at www.thebigdraw.org/vote

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