Up’s & Down’s

The adventures of the first Down’s Syndrome Fine Arts student in Egypt

Dalia Younis
The adventures of the first Down’s Syndrome Fine Arts student in Egypt
UNICEF/Egypt 2019/Dalia Younis

21 April 2019

One day of 2018, during the UNICEF-supported Awladna Art Forum for differently-abled youth and children, Dr. Ashraf Reda, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Helwan University, came across a painting that struck him. It was unusual, and it captured his attention. When he met with the artist, 20-year-old Mariam Wageeh, he decided to give her the opportunity of a life time: studying arts at the University.

In the Fall semester of 2018, the Free Studies Section at the Faculty of Fine Arts welcomed its first-ever student affected by Down Syndrome.

UNICEF met with Mariam and her mother, who is also her shadow teacher, capturing highlights from her life in the campus.
 

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The adventures of the first Down’s Syndrome Fine Arts student in Egypt
UNICEF/Egypt 2019/Dalia Younis
“This is Marina, my cousin. I consider her my sister,” Mariam said about the first portrait she drew at the Faculty. In her first semester, Mariam studied the basics of sketching and graphic design. Her mother, Hanaa Amin, was shadowing her to make sure she’s following the theoretical lectures without interfering in her actual art work.
The adventures of the first Down’s Syndrome Fine Arts student in Egypt
UNICEF/Egypt 2019/Dalia Younis
Mariam greeting fellow students. “I was expecting a heavy load to educate her professors and colleagues about her case. We were welcomed with loads of love and understanding instead”, Hanaa Amin, Mariam’s mother.

                    

The adventures of the first Down’s Syndrome Fine Arts student in Egypt
UNICEF/Egypt 2019/Dalia Younis
Mariam showing around the Faculty to her new class mate Karen. Karen is another Down Syndrome student, following Mariam’s steps. She is expected to join the free studies section majoring oil painting.
The adventures of the first Down’s Syndrome Fine Arts student in Egypt
UNICEF/Egypt 2019/Dalia Younis
Mariam taking a sip before starting her new sculpturing assignment. After studying graphic design at her first semester, she decided to take sculpturing as her new challenge in the second one.

                    

The adventures of the first Down’s Syndrome Fine Arts student in Egypt
UNICEF/Egypt 2019/Dalia Younis
On her right hand, Mariam is holding a painting she did before joining the Faculty. On her left one, she’s holding a painting with the same idea but with her talented strokes finetuned by what she learned at the Faculty. “Many people can’t believe this is her genuine work. Sometimes when she starts painting, I get the impression that she’s doing something that is completely random and unplanned. At the faculty, her professors taught me to let her express, and impress” said Mariam’s mother.
The adventures of the first Down’s Syndrome Fine Arts student in Egypt
UNICEF/Egypt 2019/Dalia Younis
Karen and her mother Amany holding the little artist’s work. Karen and Mariam were both participants of the Awladna Art Forum that took place for three rounds since 2017. Thanks to the continuous support of the European Union, UNICEF continues its efforts to support the integration of differently-abled youth and children in the society. The organization’s support to Awladna Art Forum gives a chance to great talents such as Mariam and Karen to be spotted, appreciated and supported by decision-makers across the country.