Strokes of joy

Chil­dren come to­gether to cre­ate a pa­tri­otic work of art.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Living - By SHEELA CHAN­DRAN star2@thes­tar.com.my

MORE than 150 young artists grouped to­gether one morn­ing, not so long ago in Klang, Se­lan­gor, en­thu­si­as­tic about the agenda for the day – paint­ing a graf­fiti art mu­ral to­gether.

The artists? A group of 68 autis­tic chil­dren from the Na­som cen­tre in Teluk Pu­lai, their par­ents and teach­ers, In­for­ma­tion Depart­ment per­son­nel and mem­bers of the me­dia – all who had come to­gether in a spirit of unity, in con­junc­tion with the coun­try’s National Day cel­e­bra­tions themed Ne­garaku Se­hati Se­jiwa.

The colour­ful graf­fiti mea­sures 1.75m wide and 11.75m long and fea­tures the Jalur Gemi­lang and iconic build­ings such as KL Tower, Pu­tra­jaya International Con­ven­tion Cen­tre and Petronas Twin Tow­ers. The mu­ral is set against a back­drop of vivid hues of yel­low, blue and red.

Art ther­apy helps autis­tic chil­dren de­velop their so­cial skills, fos­ter co­op­er­a­tion among peers and boost self-con­fi­dence. To hone these traits, the chil­dren were given the op­por­tu­nity to flex their artis­tic tal­ents at the Grafiti Ne­garaku art ses­sion.

Many of the stu­dents at the cen­tre in Teluk Pu­lai, who have to cope with com­mu­ni­ca­tion im­pair­ments, were able to ex­press their happy emo­tions through the graf­fiti paint­ing.

Aged be­tween three and 18 years old, the chil­dren seemed hap­pi­est when paint­ing and leav­ing their hand­prints on the wall.

“My son Nav­i­lan Raja is in his el­e­ment, hav­ing so much fun with colours. It’s nice to see him com­mu­ni­cat­ing his feel­ings through art,” said Tamil­larasi Subra­ma­niam, 38.

Six-year-old Nav­i­lan, whose smiles were as bright as the paint on his palms, has been in the early in­ter­ven­tion pro­gramme at the Na­som Cen­tre for three years now. His mother is happy with his progress, es­pe­cially his so­cial in­ter­ac­tion skills and fo­cus. Tamil­larasi no­tices his artis­tic strengths too.

“Chil­dren with autism love colours and struc­ture. He loves to mix and match colours and his cre­ations are fas­ci­nat­ing. He was ex­cited to take part in the graf­fiti project, es­pe­cially the op­por­tu­nity to play with a wide range of colours,” said the sec­ondary school teacher.

In­for­ma­tion Depart­ment di­rec­tor-gen­eral Datuk Ibrahim Ab­dul Rah­man said Grafiti Ne­garaku was aimed at both fos­ter­ing a pa­tri­otic spirit and rais­ing aware­ness on autism.

“The coun­try is cel­e­brat­ing its National Day soon. In the spirit of National Day, we en­cour­age every­one to come aboard and raise the flag. At the same time, we hope Malaysians will step for­ward and sup­port peo­ple liv­ing with autism,” he said, adding that there are over 600 autis­tic chil­dren in Na­som cen­tres across the coun­try.

Also present at the event was Na­som pres­i­dent Datuk Me­gat Ah­mad Shahrani Me­gat Shahrud­din. Me­gat Ah­mad said while aware­ness on autism had grown over the years, more steps can be taken to fur­ther im­prove lives.

“In the past, peo­ple would look dif­fer­ently at chil­dren with autism. Peo­ple never un­der­stood their con­cerns and at times, these in­di­vid­u­als were shunned by so­ci­ety. The mind­set of Malaysians needs to change. We need to in­clude all chil­dren in so­ci­ety. They de­serve our help and sup­port.”

Through art­work, autis­tic chil­dren can ex­press their artis­tic cre­ativ­ity.

The chil­dren join Datuk Ibrahim in rais­ing the Jalur Gemi­lang at the Grafiti Ne­garaku event.

Tamil­larasi and hus­band Raja Chi­naya and son Nav­i­lan. (Right) The writer paint­ing the logo of The Star news­pa­per at the National Autis­tic So­ci­ety of Malaysia, as In­for­ma­tion Depart­ment’s di­rec­tor-gen­eral Datuk Ibrahim looks on.

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