A week-long art exhibition with a difference....

Madhur Tankha
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Works of five dozen differently-abled self-taught artists on display at Arpana Art Gallery

Against all odds:Foot artist Sheela’s “worries, anxieties and negative thoughts disappear” when she paints.— Photo: Special Arrangement
Against all odds:Foot artist Sheela’s “worries, anxieties and negative thoughts disappear” when she paints.— Photo: Special Arrangement

Nearly five dozen differently-abled men and women have not allowed their disability to come in the way of expressing their inner thoughts and the world around them.

These self-taught artists would never have been able to showcase their paintings or sculptures at a week-long exhibition, which opened at Arpana Art Gallery at Siri Fort Institutional Area here over the weekend, had it not been for the untiring and unselfish efforts of former occupational therapist at Lucknow-based King George’s Medical College Rajinder Johar.

Life took a cruel turn for Mr. Johar in the 1980s, but he did not allow it to hold him back.

“While I was employed at K.G. Medical College, I was staying at Napier Road Colony in Lucknow. One day, three burglars broke into my house.”

When Mr. Johar challenged them, two of them opened fire. “One bullet pierced my chest, while the other hit my spinal cord.”

Though the bullet was removed, it rendered him quadriplegic. But Mr. Johar set up a non-government organisation and has been working round-the-year to provide alternative means of livelihood to the differently-abled.

“During our first exhibition in 2001, there were hardly a dozen artists. The idea is to provide a ready means of livelihood to artists, who are either self-taught or have received proper training at art colleges in Jammu, Ranthambore, Chennai, Bangalore, Bhadohi and Vadodara.”

To ensure that deserving artists get maximum money, Mr. Johar gives 75 per cent of the sales proceeds to the artists. The remaining goes towards the expenditure incurred in handling charges.

“Looking back, it was a journey we started with our hearts full of hope and anticipation. It was a dream we dared to dream and the purity of the intentions saw the light of day. The participating artists are a talented lot who have been blessed with creativity,” says his daughter Preeti.

Foot artist Sheela was a little when an accident left her differently-abled.

“Painting gives me an opportunity to unleash the art inside me. All my worries, anxieties and negative thoughts disappear when I paint,” she says.

An initiative of NGO Family of Disabled, the exhibition showcases 83 exquisite artworks, including sculptures in bronze and stone.




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