How an online art exhibition, organised by an NGO based in Bengaluru, is restoring faith and confidence among artists with intellectual disabilities
Akila Vaidyanathan from Coimbatore was misty-eyed when she saw her son Nishant Sriram’s paintings displayed at the second edition of eCAPA 2020 exhibition. He is one among the 59 participants with intellectual disabilities taking part in this virtual show organised by The Art Sanctuary, an NGO based in Bengaluru. “Nishant is autistic and was interested in art from a young age. This is his first exhibition and he has exhibited seven of his works inspired by Nature and patterns. I never thought he would be showcasing his works and selling them one day,” she says.There are 190 artworks including paintings, photographs, installations and clay sculptures at the ongoing event. The themes range from wildlife to abstract art. The NGO received around 500 entries and the works were selected by artist Bose Krishnamachari, founder member and president of Kochi Biennale Foundation. “Bose suggested not to set a theme, since he didn’t want to restrict their creativity in any way. We have participants with autism, cerebral palsy, Fragile X Syndrome, dyslexia, Down’s syndrome and global mental retardation,” says Shalini Gupta, Founder Trustee of the NGO.
The first edition of eCAPA was in 2019 at Stir Gallery, Delhi. “We sold half of the works then. I was planning for this year’s edition when the pandemic struck, forcing me to move online. Basic details of the artist are available with each artwork on the website.” The artists were trained to pack and courier their works to the NGO. “All these little steps help them to be self-reliant,” she says. The Art Sanctuary, which was launched in 2019, conducts regular workshops on art, theatre, storytelling, photography and dance for people with intellectual disabilities. “The sessions are online now. We have professionals to take the sessions.” In addition, they also provide a platform for people to showcase their talents. “My daughter has Down’s Syndrome and she is a photographer and a coder. When she created her website and uploaded photographs, a lot parents told me that they don’t have a platform to put up the works of their children. Finally, it was during my trip to the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2018 that I decided to set up,” says Shalini. Mumbai-based Usaid Shaikh, who is autistic, has exhibited four of his paintings. His mother, Fatima Shaikh says, “Art helps him to express himself better. An exhibition like this is important in bringing inclusivity.”Shalini has plans to hold this exhibition every year. “People are ready to acknowledge talents of those with intellectual disabilities. It is a joy to see the smiles on participants. I still remember how a photographer danced with joy when he sold a photograph he took last year.” The exhibition is on till January 26, 2021. For details, visit: theartsanctuary.in or call 9810255297.