Basil Joseph Varghese from Kochi has just completed painting a bowl of fruit. It took him two days and he is satisfied with how it has turned out. “He will either keep it for himself or sell it,” says his mother Saju Joseph. Basil is 23 years old and has Asperger’s Syndrome, which comes under the Autistic Spectrum Disorders. “He is trained by artist Ashil Antony and the sessions have helped him a lot in improving his skill. Now, not a day passes when he does not draw. I cannot express my happiness to see him sell his works and earn a living out of it. It has helped improve his confidence a lot,” she says.
Basil is one of the eight artists with disabilities from across India to be a part of the campaign Portrait Perfect Valentine, that creates custom portraits to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The campaign is organised by Atypical Advantage, a digital talent platform for people with disabilities to facilitate job recruitments and sale of their artworks. It was launched in December 2020 by Vineet Saraiwala, who is visually challenged. Says Vineet,“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over one billion people live with some form of disability. But in India, they constitute only 0.5 per cent of the formal workforce. Through this space, I want to showcase the abilities, skills and talents of people with disability.”
This is Atypical Advantage’s first awareness drive and people can choose from the nine artists. “All of them have their unique styles. For example, Payal Shrishamal who has muscular dystrophy paints with coffee and Varun Naren with Fragile X Syndrome does more of oil pastel works,” says Vineet. Once an order is placed, it will take about a week to finish the work and volunteers from the organisation help in shipping it.
Vineet also works as an inclusion lead in Big Bazaar, and got the idea to launch this platform after he found it difficult to find a voice-over artist and a model for a project for his company. “This is when I understood the importance of talent platforms. I have also been getting a lot of resumes from people with multiple skills and this gave me the push to do it,” he adds. Atypical Advantages now has 290 people registered with it; their skills include writing, acting, designing, modelling, etc. “Anyone can join it free of cost and we have volunteers who help them make a profile and resumes if needed,” adds Vineet.
- Payal Shrishrimal -Coffee and charcoal painting
- Anjan Satish - Digital portrait
- Ajay Jayaprakash - Upside down portrait
- Vyshak Ettukudukka -Acrylic painting
- Swaminathan Manivannan - Charcoal painting
- Basil Joseph Varghese -Acrylic painting
- Varun Naren - Charcoal painting
- Priya Bhargava -Acrylic painting
While proceeds go directly to the artists, Vineet charges a nominal fee for the sale of artworks, saying, “It helps us sustain the organisation.”
While he agrees that there is a better understanding of issues like inclusivity today, he adds that there is still a long way to go. “It should be taught from a young age and organisations and institutions should improve their infrastructure so that everyone can have equal access. Only then can we make this an equal world,” he says.