The Call of Colors – The New Indian Express

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Express press service

CHENNAI: Some 30 years ago, a boy with Down syndrome caught the eye of Surekha Ramachandran, founder of the Down Syndrome Federation of India (DSFI), with his routine at their center. Every day he painted a sheet of paper in shades of dark brown. When Surekha went to his house, she discovered that every wall was washed the same color. “He had only seen brown! Where is the color in the little boy’s life? She had introduced him to matching beach shades and the outing had completely changed the boy. He was humming, she recalls.

It was then that she realized the influence that colors could have on life. So when the pandemic locked everyone in nuclear enclosures, Surekha ensured that DSFI members or self-advocates did not find their lives colorless. “We asked them to put color on paper and show us what they could produce. They showed so much talent that none of us had noticed. We collected them first until we realized they were doing us a disservice. They must want something back for the work they’ve done, right? she asked, and thus was born DSFI’s Art Bazaar, an online marketplace for art made by self-advocates.

With this initiative, Surekha wanted to break with the norms of sheltered workshops where a person with Down syndrome had only to follow instructions, to something that “makes them feel alive”. From hand-painted diyas and rock art to canvas art and artisan weavings, the Art Bazaar exhibits a wealth of talent. Once you wish to purchase an artwork, DSFI can also connect you with the seller to understand the meaning of the artwork and the artists intent. “It gives them a deep sense of satisfaction. Each child told us that they felt empowered and that the parents felt even better than the children. It’s not always about the money, but about the satisfaction it brings.

Meet the self-advocates

The pandemic has given self-advocates a new mission. Many who indulged in hobbies like gymnastics, dancing, and music became bored when the shutters forced down the shutters. They then channeled their artistic sides. Fitness enthusiast Shravan Kumar R, Rama’s son, discovered he had an eye for handwoven stoles. When his family was engrossed in laptops, he sat with his machine, producing weaves of purples, pinks, blues and his favorite reds. “We decided to buy him a machine inspired by his friend Srinivas (who unfortunately lost his life during the Covid) which would show Shravan his wonderful creations. He sits down with the weaving every morning and takes pride in his end products,” shares Rama. It’s no surprise that his designs have found continued demand through word-of-mouth.

Along with recognition, art has also brought independence, empowerment and a sense of relaxation. Jammu-based Alankar Gupta turned to fluid art in the lull last year and was surprised at how much he loved it. Her sister Aakriti noticed the change in her mood. “Before, he had a bit of a temper, but now he bonds beautifully with my mother. We appreciate the growth and improvement we see in him,” she says. Although he doesn’t know the names of many colors, Alankar has created mesmerizing and vibrant paintings. After his debut at Art Bazaar, he sold over 90 pieces in just a few months. Six-year-old Riya Shivakumar also finds peace in art and incorporates it into her therapy since she was two years old.” Whenever she’s upset or in a bad mood, I set her up for painting, origami or something clay based and it calms her down. It also allows you to play to yourself and then she talks to herself, which also improves language,” says her mother, Krithika, as the little artist asks for clay in the background. With an early introduction to the hobby, Riya showed interest in doodling, clay working, and even pottery and finger painting. For Art Bazaar, she collaborated with her mother to create heart-shaped soaps with rose petals for Valentine’s Day.

Where Shravan or Alankar may have focused, Mumbai-based Aditya Subramanian dipped his toes into a myriad of media. The best of trash, drawing, Warli art, bottle and rock painting, mandalas and much more, the lockdown brought out the untapped and diverse potential within him. “He was never very into arts and crafts. But during the confinement, he took art classes and learned several types of art,” says his mother, Sudha, to whom he adds: “I found the art classes very interesting. It was something new; something I could fully concentrate on. Art has presented a calm for some, and for others it’s a way to connect with things out of reach. Hyderabad resident Divya Sruthi has been a designer since childhood. During confinement, she quickly found her peace in painting on glass. Although she is allergic to flowers, these are her favorite designs. “She’s nauseous around flowers, but she loves designing them. I think somewhere in her mind, since she can’t hold them or put them in her hair (she connects to it through art) Says Padmaja, his mother.His glass paintings caught the attention of people inside and outside the art bazaar.

It is important to note the support self-advocates have received from family and friends. Where Aakriti, Padmaja and Krithika surfed YouTube videos for designs and kits and more, Sudha and Rama helped with small tasks such as cutting curves on paper or twisting yarn on the weaving machine . “Over the past two years, I have also discovered myself. I now go on YouTube and I discover other tracks. It’s a learning process for me too,” says Sudha.

Everyone is a stage

Art Bazaar provided a platform for people with Down syndrome, but it also found a way to raise awareness in a unique style. “We’re not saying people should recognize art because it’s made by people with Down syndrome, but if someone comes across such art, they can ask the artist. Awareness doesn’t just happen by shouting on a platform. It also comes from recognizing the artwork, sportsmanship and other things they do. And I know everyone has an artist in them, they were just waiting for a platform,” Surekha surmises.

Although awareness of intellectual disability has increased in recent years, there is still a long way to go. According to Sudha, even when it comes to art, you have to know the right people to be able to channel their art. “If people are doing well and the art is being commercialized, there is often more sympathy than empathy. People don’t give them the feeling that children too should be promoted and their work should be given prominence. It’s accelerating now, but we’re still lagging behind,” she says, and Rama adds, “These children want to do this, but they’re not always well guided. Not only the exhibition, but also someone to be with them as advocates to understand their needs Maybe more competitions and art exhibitions could help?

Visit art.down syndrome.in

support system

It is important to note the support self-advocates have received from family and friends. Where Aakriti, Padmaja and Krithika surfed YouTube videos for designs and kits, Sudha and Rama helped with small tasks such as cutting curves on paper or twisting yarn on the weaving machine. “Over the past two years, I have also discovered myself. I now go to YouTube and discover other avenues,” says Sudha.

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