Yes,we can

Abbas deftly moves his fingers on pieces of clay and as he works,the shapeless lumps begin to transform and take the shape of a robot.

Written by Ananya Banerjee | Published: August 26, 2012 3:45:11 am

Abbas deftly moves his fingers on pieces of clay and as he works,the shapeless lumps begin to transform and take the shape of a robot. Finally,he pokes two strands of silver metal into the head of the robot to form its antennae. The work complete,Abbas smiles with satisfaction but he himself cannot see clearly what a fine piece of art he has just created.

Abbas has hearing and visual impairment.

The robot is just one of his several works,all of them commendable. The quality of his art belies the fact that he cannot see or hear properly.

The 30-year-old is one of the six-odd students like him participating in an animation and fine arts course at the Helen Keller Institute for the Deaf and Deafblind in Byculla. While the institute is one of the oldest of its kind in the city working for the empowerment of the deafblind,this happens to be its first professional animation workshop.

Volunteers Nikhil Jeewa (26) and Kunal Rajguru (23) who have been teaching the students are themselves in awe of the high-quality art the students have been coming up with.

“Their talent is amazing. Their pencil sketches are so detailed that no one would guess it’s the work of someone who has hearing and visual impairment,” says Nikhil.

Their art has brightened up the small classroom. The walls are adorned with charcoal sketches,water colour paintings and pastel colour drawings,all by deafblind students.

When the course started earlier this month about a dozen eager participants signed up but only a handful stayed on. “Some parents wanted their children to register for the course but the children themselves were not interested. The ones who continued are those who had genuine interest in the fine arts,” Nikhil said,admitting that it was a challenge finding deafblind students who are talented as well as interested in fine arts and animation.

The enthusiasm among the students is evident as they sit hours at a stretch,working with their art supplies or creating animation projects at the computer. “We usually break for lunch in the afternoon for an hour or so during which the classroom is locked. The students are so eager to go back to work that they gobble down their food,grab the classroom keys from me and rush back,” says Nikhil with a laugh.

Kunal says the main thrust of the course is to help the students carve a niche for themselves in society using their talent. “There are plenty of artists needed in the creative fields such as advertising and animation. It’s a yearlong course at the end of which we are confident that people will see them not with sympathy for their physical condition but recognise them for their sheer talent,” says Kunal.

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