Initiative helps children overcome violence through drawing
“In a world where violent acts are becoming a normal part of our daily life, we found that when someone is exposed to art and learns how to explore their artistic sense and become more in touch with nature and the beauty God has created in everything around us, they refrain from violence,” says Gihane El Shinnawy, founder of New Qabas. “Art actually works as a shield and protection against any violent or intimidating acts a person might engage in or be one of its victims."
El Shinnawy, a former school headmistress who explains it has long been her dream to be part of an artistic project, started marketing the idea of “Draw Me” through a number of schools and on social media. “As a headmistress, I used to have an eye for gifted children - not only in art but in other fields such as math and science, in addition to those who have some learning disabilities but are gifted in other ways. Through Draw Me we want to discover and reveal their hidden talents,” she says.
Believing that “if we take a moment to reflect on the little things around us, we will find that everything surrounding us, no matter how small, is an invitation in itself to be drawn and for us to see the beauty in it,” El Shinnawy says Draw Me is built on the concept of seeing the beauty in things and most importantly, accepting the other; or those who are different.
“We might see something for the first time and it does not look beautiful, but if we start drawing it, we give it a magical effect and surprisingly our eyes catch its beauty. In other words, art gives us the message to stop being judgmental because there is always a positive side to everything. The initiative also spotlights something most educational systems in Egypt seem to lack, which is accepting those who are different. Students usually become friends with those who share their same interests, same backgrounds and only accept those in their close circles. Deep inside they have something against those who look or act different than what they are used to. Art, like music, draws different people together and gives them space to express themselves differently.” she says.
Taking Draw Me under his wing is veteran artist Hussein Nouh, one of Egypt’s last-remaining pioneers still using carpets as a medium for his paintings. “This is something I want to do before I die. Art is a very powerful tool and can be used to deliver any message. Unfortunately, Egyptians have made peace with ugliness. I want to help make Egyptians see the beauty in things once again, and the only way I can do that is through teaching more and more youngsters how to draw and bring out the beauty of things around them,” Nouh says.
Nouh is a pioneering artist who has won a number of prizes in both local and international exhibitions. “I have always been fond of antiques and was deeply intrigued by old rugs because of their richness and deep colors, particularly the Iranian ones,” says Nouh. “And unlike oil paintings, the carpet is my inspiration. I get my idea from its colors and geometrical drawings, then I cut it and add my touch.”
Nouh’s School of Arts is sponsoring the Draw Me program, a three-month course for young artists aged 6 to 16. Focusing on teaching autistic and special needs children how to draw, the program currently has 37 students enrolled, five of them with special needs. Both El Shinnawy and Nouh are excited at the interest expressed in the school, which is also slated to offer soft and communication skills classes. “Every three months a competition is held to evaluate the student’s progress and prizes include a ticket to Italy for a month,” Nouh says.
One on the most recent additions to the student team is Rahma Khaled, an 18-yearold high school student who brought home the gold for Egypt at last year’s Paralympics in Brazil. Swimmer Khaled, who has Down Syndrome, was invited as a guest speaker at Nouh’s latest exhibition held at Cairo University last December.
To find out more about Draw Me and how to enroll, follow Qabas on Facebook.