Breaking barriers through art

Tenzin Wangchuk splashes the paint randomly. Spectators are left guessing. What it is going be, the artist himself doesn’t know. With use of only a straw and raw paint, Tenzin Wangchuk is on to creating something of a masterpiece.

This is Tenzin’s first time trying one of the contemporary art forms – the straw painting or blow painting.

“It will get better, hopefully,” say Tenzin in between the random acts. The 19-year-old is a student at the Draktsho East in Kanglung. He has cerebral plasy, a condition that affects movement and coordination.

Sitting on a wheelchair, Tenzin waits for his tutor’s instructions. He laves the canvas neatly with water, holds the brush firmly between his index and ring fingers; movement of his hands is a little difficult.

Tenzin has difficulty speaking too. Struggling to give words meaning, he says: “I’m actually enjoying this. I never thought I could paint with my mouth.”

Employing the straw technique, it’s a withered tree Tenzin’s got on the canvas.

Along with Tenzin are some 20 differently-abled students of Draktsho East taking part in a week-long art camp in Kanglung that began on July 17. The Indo-Bhutan Summer Youth Interaction Art Camp aims to encourage differently-abled students by provide them with a platform to showcase their talents.

Jigme Dorji, one of the instructors at the camp, said that the programme is conducted mainly to break the stereotypical barriers that restrict differently-abled people from doing what is considered “normal”.

Also at the camp are 25 students from Trashiyangtse and Trashigang. The students are members of the VAST-Yangtse that was founded by Jigme Dorji in 2012.

“The camp is an opportunity for people living with and without disabilities and to break the stigma that prevails in the society,” said Jigme Dorji. “It is an interactive programme that allows both the parties to learn from each other.”

He said that teaching the differently-abled students the forms of contemporary art is difficult. “I do not know their language. But we are all coping up fast. We communicate through art and it is simply beautiful how the students understand the language of art.”

Principal of Draktsho East, Karma Garab Dorji, said that the camp provides an ideal situation where students with and without disabilities can learn from each other. “The word disability is something that is perceived by people in the society. In reality, everyone is equipped with different abilities.”

Karma Garab Dorji said that the students at his institute possess talents in the field of painting, sculpting and tailoring, among others. “It is all about creating opportunities. If there are opportunities, there is no disability.”

Funded by India-Bhutan Foundation, the art camp is organised by VAST-Yangtse in collaboration with Draktsho East and Open Your Heart to Bhutan.

Younten Tshedup | Trashigang

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