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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 February 2019

Raising awareness of autism through art

Emirati artists paint what they perceive autism to be like to raise awareness about the condition.
Art by Adbulrahman Al Htali, age 11, an Emirati child whose work will be on display at Anantara Eastern Mangroves on Saturday. Courtesy Perceptions
Art by Adbulrahman Al Htali, age 11, an Emirati child whose work will be on display at Anantara Eastern Mangroves on Saturday. Courtesy Perceptions

Twelve Emirati students were asked to spend time with autistic children who use art for therapeutic means, and then produce artworks that reflect how they perceive the experience of an autistic child.

The paintings will be displayed this weekend alongside the work of children at the Abu Dhabi Autism Centre, in an exhibition called Perceptions. The aim of the exhibition is to combine the artists’ perception of autism and the reality of autism and to notice the similarities and discrepancies.

Now in its second year, the ­initiative is hosted by Invest AD, an investment company in the capital that conceived the idea as part of its corporate social responsibility.

“The aim of the Perceptions exhibition is to change people’s understanding of autism through artistic collaboration,” explains Manar Al Hinai, the head of corporate communications at Invest AD. “Art is an important part of an autistic students’ education, providing an expressive way for them to communicate. Invest AD is proud to continue to support such a deserving cause and we look forward to doing more to help autistic children reach their full potential.”

In September, the artists, all students or recent graduates, visited the autism centre to spend time with the children between the ages of 5 and 12.

Reem Omar Abdullah, 24, a graphic design graduate, says she was amazed by the quality of the art the children at the ­centre were producing.

“I didn’t expect that from such young children,” she says. “If I didn’t know they were autistic, I would assume they were made by professional artists. I knew straight away that my art would have to reflect not just their talent but the fact that they are normal people like me and you.”

Sarah Al Hosani, 22, who studied multimedia design at Zayed University, took in­spiration from the colourful toys the children had at the centre for her painting. “I was really impressed by their choice of colour palettes; they had ­really worked hard on their talent and their skills showed. The whole experience has made me understand autism more and I hope that shows in my work.”

All the artists were eager to support the wider aim of the show, which is to raise ­awareness about the condition in the UAE and to gain more support.

“When people see this exhibition, maybe they will stop treating them as different,” says Abdullah. “The colours in their work are so bright and positive, it will make people realise how happy the children are,” says Khawla Al Meraikhi, 23.

Perceptions is a one-day exhibition on Saturday at Anantara Eastern Mangroves hotel, Abu Dhabi. To attend, email communications@investad.com

aseaman@thenational.ae

Updated: November 24, 2014 04:00 AM

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