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Colourful defiance of disability

© Afzal Hossain Roni /Bangladesh
The prize-winning paintings by Afzal Hossain Roni which portray his ideas on 'Mother and Child.'
Teenager Afzal Hossain Roni finds solace when he rests his head on his mother's lap. For speech impaired Roni, it gives him a feeling of not only comfort, but also security, protection and care.

This and many more issues came to light when children aged between 10 and 15 were brought together to take part in an art competition held at the Bangladesh Shishu Academy (BSA) in Bhola at the southern tip of the country to paint pictures on the theme, 'Mother and Child'.

Even for Roni, who clinched the first prize in the competition, this theme did not take long to crystallise as most children - irrespective of their physical and intellectual state - can readily connect between their life and that of their mother's.

Altogether 30 participants took part in the competition that was organised on the eve of the sub-national launch of the State of the World's Children 2007 report in this island district on June 17. Among them, 20 were from different primary and secondary schools, five from a specialised school for the speech and hearing impaired, and the remaining five from a school for the mentally and physically challenged.

Respective school teachers, BSA and district administration officials held a planning meeting a few days ahead of the event.

"But during that meeting, some officials were reluctant to have physically and intellectually challenged children onboard as they thought it would breed uneven competition. However, they ultimately had to give in to the insistence of the school teachers and guardians of the special-needs children," according to a participant at the meeting.

Finally, when the finished works of the children were put under scrutiny of a three-member jury board it became clear that disability made no difference in picturing the mother and child bond. In fact, two among the four winning paintings were the works of physically and intellectually challenged students.

Other than Roni, another prize-winning painting was submitted by Zahid, also an intellectually challenged child. In his painting one could see a mother (and father) protecting the child from natural disasters that are all too common for islands like Bhola.

The paintings not only displayed the universal mother-child bond; they also epitomised the mother as the greatest caregiver and protector in addition to portraying her in multiple roles as working woman, nurse, homemaker, wife, guide and teacher, signifying the changing gender roles of women in society.

But surprisingly enough, while projecting mothers in such diverse roles, the spirit of care and protection that a mother enshrines was not lost in the maze of bold colours and brave brush-stokes.

A member of the jury said, "It was amply demonstrated through the artworks that whatever is good for the mother was eventually good for the child and vice versa."



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