Art helped Mohammed Yasar B overcome prolonged bouts of loneliness as he started to lose vision in his left eye. Now, as one of the seven winners of the first edition of Discovering Ability Art Awards 2019, the artist from Kerala’s Palakkad wishes for more opportunities for People with Disabilities (PwDs).
The 28-year-old former software professional, who has battled progressive myopia or nearsightedness since birth, told indianexpress.com, “I have always been inclined towards art but there are not many stages that represent disabled artists truly. We need more representation.” His artwork was also shortlisted for Paralympic Art World Cup in 2019 by the National Abilympic Association of India.
He took home the winner’s trophy, certificate and cash prize of Rs 50,000 for his watercolour-based miniature artwork depicting Lord Shiva performing the Thandav Nritham while his wife, Uma tries to pacify him by performing a Lasya; Bhava Nadanam dance as an expression of love. Recognition can be a morale-booster, remarks Yasar, “The support gave me a chance to achieve my dreams, and that’s what other artists with disabilities also need.”
Agrees Mallika Khaneja, the 23-year-old winner from Panchkula, Haryana who won praise for her contrasting portrayal of village and city life on canvas. “It’s a wonderful feeling to have so many people turn up for your work; it’s something I really appreciate,” remarks Khaneja, who has cerebral palsy owing to Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation to the brain during birth.
“There is no talk of empowerment without providing PwDs with an equal chance at sustainable livelihoods. That’s what we want to highlight through this initiative,” informs Meera Shenoy, founder and CEO of Youth4Jobs and start-up Not Just Art, which is behind the awards.
The awards team received over 130 submissions from 15 states across India in the month of October 2019. A panel of three judges from the Department of Fine Arts, Sarojini Naidu College of Arts and Communication, Hyderabad reviewed the submissions and selected seven winners, including Y Raghavendran, Niral Hareshbhai Swati, Durgesh Kumar Rathore, Amrit Khurana and Rohit Anand, besides 15 special mentions.
Sharing how important it is to create market linkages and opportunities for budding artists with disability, Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy noted at the award ceremony, “India is home to more than 40 million persons with disability. Therefore, the need to create opportunities and offer platforms for them to showcase their talent is the need of the hour.”
The artworks by the seven winners and 15 special mentions are on display at UNESCO Cluster House, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi between 9 am and 5 pm, from November 5 to 7.