Confronting disability with art

From the isolation of disability to the art space
Khalid Abdulwahid
March 12, 2022

Confronting disability with art

From the isolation of disability to the art space
Khalid Abdulwahid
March 12, 2022
© Khuyut

The disability did not prevent the young Yemeni woman, Asya Amin Al-Dhubhani (26 years old), from challenging reality and expressing herself through plastic art. With one hand, she draws impressive paintings that reflect her feelings and emotions, driven by determination and challenge to society's inferior view of people with disabilities.

Asia suffers from dwarfism and paraplegia; the conditions of disability and the social restrictions she faced prevented her from completing her education whenever she decided to enroll in university. Instead, she turned to studying English at one of the famous institutes in Sana'a, in addition to developing her talent in drawing through the Internet.

Assia started drawing since her childhood, but she practiced it more after graduating from high school, and during her journey in plastic art, she met the late painter Abdullah Al-Mujahid, who encouraged and helped her, and through him she got acquainted with the plastic artist Radfan Al-Muhammadi, who taught her several courses remotely (online), and in the same way I also took a course by the artist Mohamed Al-Hashidi.

In addition to what I have learned from Al- Mohammadi artist, I also studied an intensive diploma at the Arab Foundation for Human Rights for 20 days. Further, I worked on developing my talent by searching on social networking sites and reading about different art schools," Al-Dhahabani told "Khuyut".

About her motive to turn to plastic art, Al-Dhubhani says after a deep sigh: "I turned to painting, after I faced a sad situation, as I was about to enroll in a university to study, but I did not find any help, being a person with special needs, I wrote a post on my account at the time. On Facebook, I talked about the subject of the university, and I was met with a terrible form of bullying. I did not join that university and looked for another, and every time I encountered obstacles, I say to myself: I have a talent, and I must develop it and impress everyone with it, so I devoted most of my time to drawing.

Asia aims, through its paintings, to convey her message to the world, as it believes that "disability is not a handicap in the body, but a handicap in thinking and understanding".

When determination defies disability

In her paintings, Asia does not adhere to a specific school of art, or a specific color, but rather loves to experiment with everything; She paints everything that comes into her mind, "I like to try anything related to drawing, because drawing is a world that has no end, and every time there are new ideas that I can draw, but I am drawn to the realistic school so I like to draw the exact picture or nature, even if it takes me time to do so".

So far, Asia has painted about twenty paintings, and among her most prominent works are; "Al-Harazi painting", "The colors of the eye lens with a golden rose". Moreover, she participated in several art exhibitions, through which she was able to put her name on the list of plastic artists in Yemen; including the first and second exhibition of painting for people with special needs in Yemen.

Furthermore, she also participated in the Puzzle exhibition and the lady space initiative "Woman's Space", and the possible exhibition in the lady space initiative "Woman's Space", in addition to showing two paintings at the Book Fair 2021 in Egypt, and participated with her drawings at TEDx Salon Sana'a 2021 as part of Tedx talents.

Through her paintings, Asia aims to convey its message to the world, as she - as she says to "Khuyut" – she believes that "disability is not a handicap in the body, but a handicap in thinking and cognition", which she has already been able to achieve through art, and also with art she was able to find a source of income through requests from clients, who contact her to draw faces (portraits) of different characters.

Various difficulties

For "Asia", painting is soul and life, and a way to highlight her personality and message through brushes and colors, but she, like other people with special needs, faces many difficulties and challenges. She wonders with a sigh: "In this society, the average person does not get the most basic of his rights, so how about if he has special needs?!"

About the difficulties she encountered, she said that most of the challenges are concentrated in the absence of basic services, such as the lack of roads and stairs for people with disabilities, in addition to the lack of facilities for the disabled in government or private institutions. Moreover, the lack of responsibility and attention towards the disabled person, and their integration into society either by government agencies or international and local organizations, she said.

She adds: "If there is an assistance, they give you the least, and if they give you foodstuffs, its validity is close to expiring!"

Asia added that the key challenge in addition to the set of difficulties is the consequences of the high price of oil derivatives, which affected the prices of drawing tools, especially the excellent quality that are sold in US dollars, not to mention that they are not available in the local markets, so we are forced to order them from outside Yemen.

Due to the fact that Asia is a person with special needs, she does not find sufficient support and encouragement from government and private institutions, or from society, except from her family, which has contributed a lot to providing support and encouraging her to achieve her dreams. And since the Internet is her primary school, she finds it difficult to browse due to the poor internet speed in Yemen. 

Social Recognition of female Artwork 

Regarding society’s acceptance of the idea of ​​a girl with special needs practicing drawing, people are divided into two opinions. The first - fans and motivators, who are impressed by a one-handed girl who draws beautiful paintings, and get more fascinated when she tells them that she learned it all from the Internet from a distance.

On the other hand, the other opinion does not see painting as art, but rather as mere scribbles. These people, according to Assia, "do not know anything about art, nor that some paintings take several days to draw, not to mention the physical effort and financial expenditure."

In conclusion, there are many ambitions and dreams that Asia seeks to achieve; the most important of them is that she hope to be with a distinctive imprint in her paintings, giving her a place among the international artists, who are referred to with admiration. "I want to have my own art school; to become an international artist, in order to motivate, encourage and support people with special needs," Asia concludes with "Khuyut".

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