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Special needs artists in Dubai say golden visa raises hope for future


Two artists with disabiliti­es in Dubai have been given golden visas, which they say will open the door to greater opportunit­ies.

Zambian painter Victor Sitali, Indian artist Sharan Budhrani and their art teacher Gulshan Kavarana received the 10-year residency for their cultural contributi­on.

Members of the arts community said the visas were a tribute to their talent and spirit.

“It gives me the opportunit­y to expand my ideas for my art. I can work harder and dream bigger,” Mr Sitali said in sign language.

“I am very happy. I now have independen­ce. I can think only of working hard.”

Mr Sitali, 31, lost his hearing at the age of 3 and was introduced to art as a teenager by Ms Kavarana.

His distinctiv­e oil and acrylic work on canvas earned him studio space at Tashkeel, an art gallery in Dubai.

He stages domestic and overseas exhibition­s, as well as workshops for people of all ages with disabiliti­es.

The Sitali family have lived in the UAE for more than a decade. His mother Dorothy said the family was proud of his latest achievemen­t.

“This has brought us unbelievab­le joy,” she said. “We thought this visa was for senior executives. It came as a total surprise, a good surprise.”

Ms Kavarana, 57, met the family when she worked as a volunteer with the Dubai Centre for Special Needs.

“I worked with Victor when he was only 16 and didn’t know anything about painting. I soon realised how talented he was,” she said.

Ms Kavarana said it was “wonderful” to be recognised.

“I dedicated my life to working with people of determinat­ion, doing art with them and taking them to the next level. I thank the UAE government for giving us this opportunit­y.”

Mr Sitali and Mr Budhrani were part of a vibrant artist community at Mawaheb, a studio in Dubai that nurtured the creative skills of young adults with disabiliti­es.

Mr Budhrani, 30, has muscular dystrophy that weakens his muscles and limits his mobility. Seated in a wheelchair, he uses remote-controlled cars, spoons and sticks to paint on large canvasses.

“This is very exciting news,” said Mr Budhrani, who was born in the Emirates and has always known the country as home.

“I feel there is hope ahead in the future for me. I can still go on my creative journey to inspire and motivate more people with art.

Currently recovering from a severe bout of pneumonia, he requires a tracheosto­my tube and a ventilator to breathe at night.

The discomfort of being fitted with a tube to open up his air passage has not stopped him from painting.

“I feel I must always keep going and never give up,” he said.

Ms Kavarana said the golden visa acknowledg­ed the resilience of the artists.

“Sharan has a never-give-up attitude. He is on the ventilator but there is nothing stopping him from his passion of art,” she said.

Nasser Juma bin Sulaiman, manager of the Al Fahidi historical district, nominated Mr Budhrani and Ms Kavarana to the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

“These are very special cases,” he said.

“Dubai Culture gave these artists an opportunit­y so they can make their own business here and also make Dubai their home.”

Lisa Ball-Lechgar, Tashkeel’s deputy director, nominated Mr Sitali and described his contributi­on as vital to the community. She said he had shown his appetite for experiment­ation by venturing into abstract art.

“He works with passion and energy as a full-time creative profession­al in Dubai and deserves to be acknowledg­ed for his unwavering commitment and dedication,” she said.

 ?? Victor Sitali ?? Painter Victor Sitali is one of two artists who received golden visas in Dubai
Victor Sitali Painter Victor Sitali is one of two artists who received golden visas in Dubai

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