Art & poetry as means of effective disability advocacy is theme of second Know Your Rights Webinar
The second webinar in the eight-week Know Your Rights Webinar series saw young students take the stage and exchange ideas on how art and poetry offer an effective platform for disability advocacy. The webinars are being organised by the Javed Abidi Foundation, Disability Rights India Foundation and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. NewzHook is a media partner of this series.
“Disabled and that too an artist?!” Zuhaib Khan, a first year BA student of Mass Media set the tone as opening speaker for the second talk in the Know Your Rights Webinar Series held in Delhi. A blind artist who is into music, plays and stand-up comedy, Zuhaib spoke candidly about the many perception barriers disabled people encounter in the fields of art and poetry.
As a member of the Generation Next in India’s disability rights movement, Zuhaib was candid and forthright while sharing his views at the event which aims to build larger awareness about disability rights. The event has been organised by the Javed Abidi Foundation (JAF), Disability Rights India Foundation (DRIF) and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).
Voices of Gen Next in disability advocacy
“It’s hard for me to understand why this perception has not changed even after so many years and advocacy efforts of countless individuals”, said Zuhaib, a student at Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. “Art to me is anything which is different, and an artist is anyone who understands diversity”, and questioned attitudinal barriers. “Sometimes access becomes an issue for me, but the fact of the matter is that nothing is impossible”.
While the first webinar focused on finding the right tools for disability advocacy, the second took a rather unusual turn. This is because Shameer Rishad, Convenor, JAF, feels art offers ways to express the unexpressed.
Art forms, be it poetry, fine arts or performing arts, explore the unsaid, the unexpressed. They urge one to take a deep dive within that can be healing and therapeutic for the individual and if you are able to find some answers and you are ready to share it with others, it can also become a very powerful tool of awareness and advocacy, as in the case of the speakers for this webinar. – Shameer Rishad, Convenor, Javed Abidi Foundation
For writer, poet and spoken word performer Abhishek Anicca, the personal is most certainly political and that bears reflection in his art. He spoke poignantly and powerfully about how being gradually disabled due to scoliosis shaped others’ perceptions.
“This disabling of my body was as much a social process as it was a physical one”, said Abhishek, a research scholar at Ambedkar University. “It took a long time for me to accept that I was disabled but I still couldn’t accept the transformation my social identity was going through. People would walk up to me and stare at my body. Or comment on it”.
Using the arts as an effective tool
A love for writing, public speaking and performance led him to discover the power of spoken word poetry. “I wanted to talk about disability not only for others but also because it was a way to enhance my own understanding of being disabled. My spoken word piece started shaping up, focusing on my personal experiences of being disabled in a city of Delhi”.
Abhishek is convinced of poetry’s ability to work as an advocacy tool. “There are aspects of our disabled life that we seldom talk about. Although these experiences are personal, other people have similar experiences. The conversations that your coming out with your disability stories brings out helps to build a community around common experiences”.
The second speaker Dr Anubha Mahajan, Chairman-Founder, Chronic Pain India, spoke about art as a medium of advocacy which is related to disability and how chronic illnesses and invisible disabilities are linked to the disability sector. Through one of her art pieces she depicted how a chronic illness can lead to a disability in the future due to lack of proper medical facilities, societal acceptance and other factors which have an immediate effect on the mental and physical health of the person.
“Until and unless people don’t face a similar condition they don’t want to understand or even acknowledge the actuality of invisible disability”, said Anubha. “Till the time the whole community, won’t accept the existence of invisible illnesses and understand its direct impact on the birth of a disability, there can be no change”.
She added that, “The topic of invisible disability and invisible illness is put forward in many conferences but there is no action taken which is correlated with the lack of data and statistics for chronic illnesses.”
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