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Strokes of inspiration

October 23 - 29, 2019
Gulf Weekly Strokes of inspiration

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

Motivational mosaic masters Lena Dajani and Rula Al Chorbachi have reached out to the community yet again to empower and inspire athletes through art.

The co-directors of Art Reach, a non-profit group supported by a dozen dedicated artists and designers who usually volunteer their time to produce art fittings and fixtures across the kingdom, spent a week painting a vibrant mural on the walls of the Bahrain Mobility International (BMI) Centre’s sports hall.

The dynamic duo, along with 12 of the group’s generous volunteers and globetrotting artist and teacher Seana Mallen, painted disabled athletes performing an array of sports such as basketball, badminton as well as track and field.

According to Lena, a Palestinian-American artist who has a background in project management and acts as programme director of the group, the concept came about earlier this year when she and Rula were introduced to Amal Almoayyed through their partner, Bodour Yaqoub.

“We were very impressed to learn about her charity work at BMI,” said Lena. “We asked Amal for her recommendations on venues for a community art initiative and she put us in touch with Bahrain Mobility’s chairman of the board Adel Sultan Al Mutawa.”

During the ladies visit to the centre located in Isa Town, Adel took them on a tour of the centre and spoke about the work they have done over the past 40 years in support of the disabled community.

“We were truly impressed with the facility and the dedication of the staff,” added Lena. “BMI has a daily preschool programme for disabled children, a physiotherapy room, a swimming pool and a sports hall that serves as both a sports venue and a hall for special events.

“Adel spoke proudly about their effort to increase opportunities for the disabled community, including former members representing Bahrain in Paralympic games.”

Lena suggested to Adel a painted mural in the sports hall to celebrate the achievements of disabled athletes in various sports and after a proposal was submitted to Yousif & Aysha Almoayyed Charity, a budget was approved just in time for Seana Mallen’s short visit to Bahrain.

“With Seana’s positive energy and artistic experience, plus the support from our Art Reach volunteers, who hail from different countries including the US, Bahrain, Palestine, Jordan, Morocco, Serbia, and Venezuela, was phenomenal. A group of 10 pre-school children from BMI also joined in one day to paint the mural.”

Seana, who has lived and worked in Bahrain from 2005 to 2013, was delighted to participate as well. She said: “It was a huge pleasure for me to be able to be involved in the mural. The basic idea for the mural was Lena‘s. She had found photographs of disabled athletes on the internet and we projected the images and cut stencils.

“In the painting I tried to create a feeling of life and energy and movement with loose brush stroke and lots of bright colours. I have worked on many mural projects in the past but this is the first time that I’ve worked with stencils and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s lovely to have that hard crisp edge and be able to fill the painting area with very abstract and energetic mark-making. I found the children at the mobility centre to be so inspiring.

“When you first arrive at the centre it could break your heart to meet all these adorable kids who are confined to wheelchairs. “But with the excellent help and care of the staff here, they rise above their disabilities. It was wonderful to see their happy faces and their excitement about holding paint brushes and contributing to the artwork, painting in the wave links all of the figures.

“These children do not allow themselves to be held back by their disabilities, and I find that very moving.”

Seana added that the underlying purpose of the mural, aside from just brightening and enlivening the space, is to show positive role models and celebrate the incredible achievement of athletes with disabilities

She added: “I want to thank Lena and Art Reach for all the amazing work they do beautifying Bahrain and for including me in this great project.”

While working on the mural, Lena met Ali Abdel Aziz, a former Paralympic javelin and discus thrower who was jovial about the project.

She said: “It was lovely to see the positive reactions from Ali and other disabled members at the centre. Public art projects are valuable in many ways. People are drawn to communities when value is placed on art; they enjoy the space more which leads to an improved quality of life; public art creates artistic and social focal points in designated areas for community events; and, it can be an expression of a community’s unique identity.”

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