|Means of expression: Nine-year-old Ha Dinh Chi, born with autism, finds painting a good way to express his inner world.
by Le Huong
The small, happy world of a nine-year-old boy born with autism, as seen through his paintings, is now on display in downtown Ha Noi.
The exhibition is not only an open door to the mysterious world of autistic children, but also a source of encouragement to families with these children.
Entitled Nem's Story, the exhibition is "the most special one", from among the more than 200 exhibitions he has attended, noted painter Le Thiet Cuong said in his speech at the opening of the exhibition.
"In his paintings, I see red paddy fields, purple bridges, lots of clouds and sunshine," he said. "He uses strong colours expressing his optimistic view of the world. Looking at his paintings, I wish I were born with autism so I might paint so beautifully."
Nem is the nickname of Ha Dinh Chi, now a third grade pupil at a primary school for normal children in Ha Noi. Those in attendance, might see Nem hiding in a corner during his first solo exhibition, seeking to stay away from strange eyes. Yet, he communicates with people, he smiles, he dreams, he catches people's eyes and touches their hearts with his sketches, images and colours in more than 60 paintings.
|Alien friends: One of Chi's paintings titled Friends from Another Planet. — VNS Photos Le Huong
Nem's real life story is not happy, as he reveals in his paintings. As an autistic child, it has been hard for him to express himself through words, gestures and actions. His parents discovered his interest in drawing when he was two-year-old. He later joined a painting class, but was unable to follow the teacher's instructions.
"I used to think that my son was like a bag with many big holes, and I tried in vain to fix the holes," said Chi's mother, Nguyen Lan Phuong, a 38-year-old lecturer at the Ha Noi University of Engineering. "Then one day, I realised that he is not a bag with holes. He is like a very nice net bag. He sees the surrounding world with many cheerful, colourful images and lots of inspirations."
"He would easily lose himself drawing things, while singing ‘uh, ah' as a way to block all outside sounds to concentrate on his work," she said. "From time to time, he may skip [jump] for a while to relax and then continue with his work."
He often draws sketches non-stop with his left hand on an A4-sized paper. After 10 to 15 minutes, he completes the sketch without stopping to think about the outline.
"The outlines for the sketches run from his mind like water from a tap," she said.
Chi's drawing tutor, Nguyen Hang Nga, noted that he is always creative, rather than only obeying his teacher's directions.
"For example, he may draw a square roof for a house, rather than a triangle, as is usual," she said.
A curator working for the Art Viet Nam Gallery commented that she found an interesting feature in most of Chi's paintings – "that there is a complicated chaos with a certain order".
"The layout of a painting is very important, which is not often properly arrange by a child," she said. "That's why I think Chi has a talent in drawing. Images in his paintings are very natural."
The exhibition also includes nearly 40 photos, along with videos and audios of Chi in his daily life. Audio works features recorded sounds Chi made to self-concentrate when he draws.
"During the process of nurturing Chi, the most difficult thing was that I did not understand him, until I learned the Relationship Development Intervention method. Through this exhibition, I want to send a message to parents with autistic children, that they should not give up. Each child is a small world. Parents should understand their children, try to use all methods to develop the children and, more importantly, bring them happiness and joy," Phuong said.
The exhibition, which is organised with the sponsors of the Inclusive Development Action (IDEA) and the Centre for Economics and Community Development, runs until Thursday at KAIart, 342 Nghi Tam Street.
Nguyen Hong Oanh, head of IDEA, noted that the community has not yet learned to become fully aware of society's role and responsibility in educating disabled children, or of such children's abilities, once educated.
"Nem's Story is expected to create changes in people's awareness and, more importantly, give disabled children the opportunity to live and express their voices," she said. — VNS