Making the arts inclusive for those with disabilities

Inspiring creativity: Social worker Lynn Foo (right), guiding (from left) Sabahan pop artist Rozella, Jamaliah, Wan Jamila and Chan.

KUALA LUMPUR: For many, going blind would be devastating. But 64-year-old Jamaliah Mohd Yasin held on to her dream of becoming a photographer after losing her vision to glaucoma.

She said she was sad and scared in the beginning, but eventually made herself face reality and accepted her lot in life.

Jamaliah said she then became more confident and decided to take up photography through a series

of classes organised by the Plus Community Partnership last year.

“I really enjoy photography because I get to meet a lot of people.

“I also get to express my feelings through photographs, ” said the soft-spoken Jamaliah, who lost her sight when she was 61.

She said she enjoyed taking photographs when she was younger, taking inspiration from her father, who was a talented photographer.

Now her photos, together with those by nine other blind photographers, will be go on display at the upcoming Sensory Photography exhibition.

The exhibition is part of the inaugural Art Includes Festival 2019, which will be held next month.

The festival aims to celebrate the works of differently abled artists, photographers, chefs, musicians and dancers.

It addresses the need for diversity in the arts scene by including people with disabilities.

Joining Jamaliah are teenager Wan Jamila Wan Shaiful Bahri (also known as artjamila), a visual artist with autism; Dr Azariah Tan, an almost-deaf Singaporean pianist; Patrick Teoh, a veteran radio deejay and theatre practitioner; and American-Vietnamese culinary star Christine Ha.

The Art Includes Festival 2019

is the brainchild of Stevens Chan, who is the founder of Dialogue In The Dark Malaysia, a social enterprise that works to increase public awareness on preventable blindness.

“We have a lot of talented people here whose works need to be showcased.

“I attended the Arts and Disability Forum in Singapore some years ago and came back feeling inspired, only to realise that we didn’t have a proper platform for that here, ” said Chan, who became blind due to glaucoma.

“After years of mulling over it, we are finally launching this festival. Our main objective is to inspire our children and youth with all forms of disability.

“Through our invited guests, we want to challenge their mindset; if they, despite their disability, have gone beyond and done something, so can you, ” said Chan.

He added that he hoped to unearth new talents through the festival.

The Art Includes Festival 2019, which carried the theme “Celebrating Diversities”, will be held in conjunction with the United Nations’ Global Day of Action.

It aims to raise RM500,000 and the funds will be used to expand and scale up the Dialogue Includes Academy with arts and music facilities.

Among the highlights is the three-day Celebrating Diversities – The Path To Building Resilience conference, which will feature 10 renowned local and foreign artistes and business people who, despite their limitations, faced their challenges and became among the best in their respective fields.

The Cuisine Dining In The Dark session will see participants dining in complete darkness and enjoying a menu curated by Ha.

Art Includes Festival 2019 will be held at Ruang by Think City (No. 2, Jalan Hang Kasturi) and the Market Squares in Kuala Lumpur from Sept 23 to 29.

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