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Wednesday October 2, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday October 2, 2013 MYT 8:06:49 AM
by gayathri nair
On a missio n: Akira Mitsuhashi is keen to teach children with autism at Nasom how to do the Saori weave as he believes the free-form style will stimulate their creativity.
A Japanese man is on a mission to teach special needs children how to weave.
HE may not be an expert when it comes to autistic children, but Akira Mitsuhashi has found a way to connect with them through a unique and interesting method.
Mitsuhashi, who used to sell printers for a living in his native Japan, has decided to spend his retirement years teaching disabled children the Saori art of weaving.
In traditional hand weaving, the regularity of the weave is highly valued. If there is an irregular pattern or thread, it is considered a mistake or flaw.
But the Saori technique – founded by weaver Misao Jo in 1969 – emphasises free expression and individual creativity.
It is rooted in the idea that weavers should not try to imitate the uniformity of machine weaving. No two human weavings are alike as they reflect the personalities of the different weavers.
The first syllable, Sa, of the name Saori, is derived from the word Sai in the Zen vocabulary, which means everything has its own individual dignity. Ori of Saori means weaving.
In Japan, the Saori organisation is also known as VSA (Very Special Arts) Arts, which is an international non-profit organisation that creates learning opportunities through the arts for people with disabilities.
Saori’s free form of weaving, which does not adhere to set rules and is tolerant of irregularities, is taught to children with special needs to give them an avenue for self-expression and creativity.
“About nine months ago, I took up Saori hand weaving and decided to go to different countries to teach the art.
“I’m not a teacher of the disabled, nor do I have any experience with autistic kids, but when I opened up this idea to the kids at the National Autism Society of Malaysia (Nasom), it opened up their minds too,” said Mitsuhashi, 52, who has so far taught the method in Malaysia and the Philippines.
Mitsuhashi believes the Saori method is beneficial to those with special needs.
“The nature of the Saori hand weaving is very much in line with the characteristics of an autistic child, especially when it comes to the continuous repetition levels involved when forming a weave.
The combination of colours and different threads used in the weaving activity can stimulate brain functionality amongst the kids.
“There is no such thing as a mistake in the Saori hand weaving. Any defect is considered artistic and acceptable and each piece produced is beautiful on its own,” added Mitsuhashi, who carries a foldable loom with him wherever he travels.
Mitsuhashi was on his second visit to Malaysia to introduce Saori weaving to the children at a Nasom centre. With his gentle demeanour and encouraging words, it was easy for the children to engage with him.
“When I sat with my loom and began weaving, the kids at the centre got very excited and curious,” said Mitsuhashi who donated a Saori loom, which costs RM3400, to the Nasom centre on Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur.
He hopes to teach Saori weaving to the disabled in Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and perhaps Australia in the future.
Of all the children who have seen Mitsuhashi weave, two were interested to learn the skill. They spent some time with Mitsuhashi working on their weaving skills.
“The results are beautiful and we have been able to sell the fabric they weaved,” shared Nasom assistant general manager Osman Teh Abdullah.
Osman said mastering an income-generating skill is important for children with special needs to enable them to lead independent lives.
“As they grow into adults, they need to be independent. And as caregivers, it is our job to ensure the children are able to sustain themselves in the real world.
“If they could be exposed to creative arts that would stimulate their minds and engage their interest, we would be giving our children the best,” added Osman.
Tags / Keywords:
Family & Community, Family & Community, Weave;Saori;Japan;Special needs kids
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