A story of friendship
How the See Every Colour campaign helped Gigi and Luka to discover new colours in their lives
TBILISI, May 2018 –Luka Nadaraia is a 12 year old boy who loves art and music and lives in the small western Georgian town of Zugdidi. When Luka first met Gigi as part of the UNICEF campaign “See Every Colour”, he did not know much about people with disabilities. Luka learned about Gigi, a 13 year old boy with autism spectrum disorder through the campaign and was fascinated that Gigi was a painter. The two-year campaign See Every Colour was supported by USAID and the European Union.
“I went to meet Gigi to talk about our experiences and to get to know each other. I wanted to learn more from him about his painting,” said Luka.
The boys easily found a common language – the language of art and friendship. Both were eager to share what they loved. Gigi was enthusiastic to let Luka see his paintings in his workshop. Luka was stunned to see so many pictures and was especially captivated by the colourful paper trucks hanging from the ceiling. “Each detail wheels, lights, even the smallest things were so refined and well made…it was cool” Luka said.
Luka played music to Gigi as he also wanted to share what he liked, the colours of music. Gigi liked it and danced while Luka played for him. This first meeting for Gigi and Luka became the start of a close friendship and the journey to discover new colours in each other. Luka learned a lot about people with disabilities. “Gigi showed me that being a person with a disability does not mean that you can’t do anything.” Luka said.
Their friendship continued and other meetings followed. Gigi talked with Luka about his paintings while Luka played music. Luka invited Gigi to his concert and introduced him to his friends and family. Gigi liked his new friends a lot.
Luka became a real advocate for people with disabilities. He started to say to his family members and friends that people with disabilities like Gigi had the same rights and many abilities.
Luka’s mother Tsitsino Shengelia also became friends with Gigi’s mother, Natia Sakhokia, who in the small city of Zugdidi is trying to help Gigi to develop his abilities. She set up a workshop where Gigi’s paintings are displayed and where Gigi works on new sketches.
“I was glad to become part of the See Every Colour campaign”, said Natia Sakhokia. “Gigi has changed a lot through his friendship with Luka. He became more social and more independent. Gigi was eager to meet Luka’s family and friends. This friendship helped him to develop his abilities and social skills”.
The See Every Colour campaign aims to influence negative attitudes against people with disabilities and went to Zugdidi to meet with children and young people in schools and universities where they could talk about myths and misconceptions around disabilities. Luka and Gigi, with their parents, joined the campaign and became advocates in their own communities.
“Luka started to think about the issue more and why people around him had negative attitudes towards people with disabilities. He tried to explain to his grandfather and his friends that people like Gigi had abilities and that society should change, not them,” said Tsitsino Shengelia, Luka’s mother.
Tsitsino, a civil activist herself, helped Natia to enroll in a training programme on using art for advocacy. The campaign created a platform for people with disabilities and their parents to advocate for their issues. Tsitsino and Natia tried to support each other and to change others. By supporting each other and working together, they help to create an environment where children like Gigi are able realise their potential.
Gigi continues to paint in his workshop and now has a new hobby. He paints portraits with different expressions. He likes to observe and to think. In his paintings he discovers new people, new features and new colours.
Luka also continues to practice music and to influence public attitudes around disability. He tells people about Gigi and his paintings. When people see them together they also try to discover new colours in their communities and in themselves.