An art exhibition that `speaks’ for the differently abled

December 6th, 2008 - 9:42 am ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Dec 6 (IANS) Their world is silent. Spoken words hold no meaning for them as they are hearing- and speech- impaired. Twelve of them, however, are attempting to give voice to the “voiceless” population of India through an art exhibition in Bangalore.”The exhibition is a special attempt to give a proper platform to the artistic genius of people having speech and hearing impairment. Through their artworks, we will attempt to give some amount of voice to the otherwise most marginalised section of the country,” A.K. Umesh, director of the Bangalore-based Foundation for Art and Culture for Deaf (FACD), who is himself hearing and speech impaired, told IANS in an e-mail interview.

“All the artists showcasing their works at the exhibition are extremely talented,” he added.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 6.3 percent of the total Indian population is deaf and mute.

The five-day exhibition that began Friday at Venkatappa Art Gallery on Kasturba Road in the city centre has 72 paintings by artists from Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Puducherry and Kolkata. It will run till Dec 9.

Each artist is showcasing six paintings, mostly done in oil and watercolour.

“Most of the paintings bring to light the everyday problems of people who have hearing and speech impairments,” observed Umesh.

“As they cannot communicate like a normal person and have to depend on sign language, they have to endure great difficulties. Their total lack of communication skills is the key issue which has kept them away from getting education and employment,” Umesh pointed out. The foundation was established in 2004 to encourage creative pursuits of people who are deaf and mute.

FACD has so far organised six art exhibitions showcasing paintings by deaf and mute artists of Karnataka. The current one is the first in which artists from other parts of India are taking part.

Along with popular Bangalore artist Ganesh Shetty, others participating in the exhibition are Rajni, Supriya, Archana and Rajiv (all from the city), Harsha Shukla (Mumbai), Mahesh Shekhar (Chennai), K. Raja (Chennai), Venkatesan (Puducherry) and T Shekhar (Chennai), as also Kolkata twins Ashish Kabasi and Debashis.

“I am grateful to my parents for encouraging my passion for painting and today it is my profession too. As a member of the community, I would like to say: give us proper opportunity and we too are second to none and can prove our worth in all fields,” said Ganesh Shetty, 34, winner of the Bala Kala contest sponsored by Unicef in 1989 at Bangalore, communicating through sign language.

Ganesh has exhibited his works in Bangalore several times and has sold his works to art connoisseurs in New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune.

“I am planning to hold an exhibition in New Delhi and am on the look-out for a sponsor,” stated Ganesh, most of whose paintings are in an abstract form.

Ashish and Debashis, the Kolkata twins, said in an e-mail to IANS that they were happy to come to Bangalore to showcase their works.

“Both of us love colours and have made it our medium of expression. Through our paintings, mostly in oil and acrylic, we try to bring out various issues relating to the deaf and mute community,” Ashish wrote.

According to experts, deaf art is a distinct art genre. Based on personal experiences, it uses formal elements of art combined with innate cultural or physical deaf experiences and their relationship with surrounding and everyday life.

“Art helps persons with disabilities to express themselves in a better way and help them to overcome their disabilities to a great extent. Art acts as a great healer for persons with disabilities and should be encouraged to be taken up by them,” said city based disabled rights activist Arman Ali.

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