Participation, expression and rights of visually impaired children

Can you experience the art if you cannot see it? What does the first drawing of a blind child look like? These are questions that come to mind while visiting a recent art exhibition by blind and visually impaired children art at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

The exhibition was appropriately called ‘Please Touch’. Most art events have numerous and prominently displayed signs saying “Do not touch” but this exhibition encourages visitors to touch and engage with art through touch as would be experienced by blind persons.

Most of the art was created using yarn or thread on sticky surfaces. The exhibition was on two themes or concepts: “Grow in the Dark” and “Glow in the Dark”.

The first part shared 16 stories by children from several blind schools across Thailand. Stories were about their joy, fears, hopes, experiences, and other expressions from their imagination. Another section was from 12 well known Thai artists and cartoonists who created works of art to be experienced by the visually impaired and the blind.

IMG_0262Jirawat Boonpaem (Obb-cheoi), “The music band”: This drawing represents his dream on being a popular musician. He is 16 years old and has been blind since birth.

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Natthaei Noppibul (Nim), “My home”: Nim, 9 years old, fully blind, made a drawing of many people in her seaside house. Inside the house, there are a dog and a cat named Nat as well as many household items.

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Sirapob Reabsamraet (Dream), “Things I am afraid of”: One of the fear series, Dream expressed his fear through his illustration about a Thai female spirit, called Kra-Sue. The spirit is hovering in the air for food at night, and around her there is a long snake and lizard, which makes a buzzing sound to indicate where it is.

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Kriangkrai Rairaman (Bank), “The Sea”” Bank, 7 years old and visually impaired, created his first drawing of his favourite place – the sea. He wonders if he could be in the deep part of the sea. He imagines the sea will have both small and big boats, and one of them is a banana boat that he wishes to ride on. He explained that the picture includes many other things such as soda cans, Buddha statues, and broken washing machines in this art.

The event is meant to promote awareness on the life-enhancing power of art to create connections between blind people and the general public. This is a good example demonstrating one way children with visual impairments can be provided opportunities to participate and express themselves and communicate with society. Many visitors said they felt inspired by the artists, as I did.

The author

Piangdao Noksapa is education programme assistant at UNICEF EAPRO

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