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ARTISTS from across the globe joined young Othmann El Attar on his mission to raise awareness about autism.
It was such a resounding success that the 25-year-old is planning to continue the initiative during the months to come.
Othmann who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three launched a colourful campaign of drawing at different destinations in Bahrain to shine a light on the disorder and was joined by several artists along the way.
According to Dr Sarah Clarke, the founder of Baloo’s Reading Buddies, and Othmann’s mum Christine Gordon, co-founder of RIA Institute Bahrain – an inclusive education centre that caters to special needs students – Othmann enjoyed himself and their message of inclusivity went global.
“I don’t think I’ve seen him smile and laugh so much in a long time,” said Sarah.
“It’s been very tough for those with communication and sensory differences during the pandemic.”
Autism Spectrum Disorder includes a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication. Each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges.
“It’s amazing to watch Othmann respond to what he sees and feels in the moment – his ability to stay in the here and now, accept things as they are and not second guess his work is something we can all aspire to,” she added.
All of Othmann’s artistic events were live on Instagram TV and people from Jordan, the US, the UK, Egypt and India watched on as he showcased his drawing with freedom. Othmann also has a gift for ‘up-scaling’ and interpreting small images and turning them into huge works of art, sometimes several metres high, proving that art is for everyone.
“Art is for everyone to enjoy whatever our abilities be – it’s a great way to relax and connect with nature and other people, something which is so important at this difficult time,” said Christine. “We wanted to raise awareness about autism as well as demonstrate RIA’s message of inclusion in a simple way during April, while doing something fun.
“Othmann may not be able to communicate in conventional ways but his art allows him to be the same as everyone else, unique and accepted. All our pop-up events were spur-of-the-moment ideas. We were delighted with the creativity. Thank you to all the artists who came forward and asked to draw with Othmann – you made his year!”
To comply with Covid-19 regulations, the autism awareness crusaders met in groups of five outdoors, or virtually, to draw.
The first event took place at Bahrain Bay with mountaineer and artist Madhu Sarda and her daughters taking part.
Inspirational teenager Rhea D’Mello, who was born with Down Syndrome, joined Othmann at Marina Park along with eco-warrior Pallavi Jain. Pallavi donated an artwork to be auctioned off in aid of RIA.
For the first Friday of Ramadan, illustrator Rekha Salin walked them through a step by step guide to drawing a Ramadan-themed cartoon.
The next meet was a sunset painting session with Zainab Javid and her children at Riffa Views Park which Othmann joined virtually.
He also celebrated Earth Day with artist Seana Mallen through a live-streamed art workshop in which she taught viewers from Bahrain and the UK a simple and effective way to paint cherry trees using watercolour.
Later on, Rhea joined Othmann at a restaurant in Adliya along with artist Irina Averinos. Pallavi and Othmann also created a collaborative artwork during Gargaoun and he also connected virtually with teacher Rajee Murali in Chennai, India and her sons.
Finally, Othmann painted with 3D artists Limnesh Augustine and Jincy Babu at RIA Institute.
Jincy said: “Our 120sqft painting depicts a parrot coming to life and flying out from a canvas painting created by an autistic child. The art within the 3D Painting represents the primary symbol of autism which was created by Gerald Gasson. The puzzle piece is significant as it embodies the message of the autistic community that ‘I am not alone’ and that ‘I am part of the great puzzle of life’.”
Othmann completed his recreation in about 15 minutes while the 3D painting took 18 hours.
“This is a talent beyond our understanding,” added Limnesh. “We take this opportunity to pass the message that we all have our unique abilities and skills and we need to include, enable and inspire without any discrimination.”
Sarah, Christine and Othmann have a couple of large inclusive art events up their sleeves for later in the year.
For details, follow @baloosbuddies on Instagram and Baloo’s Buddies Bahrain on Facebook. Anyone who would like to draw with Othmann in the coming months can message Sarah on 38338064.