The art of caring
FRIENDS of an autistic artist living in Bahrain have rallied round to support his dream of attending a residential camp for differently-abled adults in Canada for two weeks during the summer.
Within a matter of days almost half of the cost of the adventure has been met by well-wishers after a gofundme social media page was set up for Othmann Al Attar by his family.
“I just love art,” he told his mother, Christine Gordon, an expat British long-term Bahrain resident who has dedicated her life to caring for children with special needs and received a top UK honour for her services to education and charitable causes.
Othmann – diagnosed with autism at the age of three – has always loved to draw. His mum would find him making his mark on the walls of their apartment at a very young age and quickly discovered that he was calmest with a pencil or paintbrush in his hand.
Fast forward 20 years and self-taught, naturally-talented Othmann has been showing his art to the world since family friend, Dr Sarah Clarke, discovered that he had an incredible gift for ‘up-scaling’ and interpreting small images into huge works of art, sometimes several metres high.
He is often seen working alongside other amateur and professional artists at inclusive art events organised by Sarah, founder of the Baloo’s Buddies programme at RIA Centre, an inclusive education centre that caters to the needs of students in Bahrain with special needs.
As reported earlier in GulfWeekly, the facility was set up in 1999 by singer Christine and her husband, Emad, a chemist and fellow musician. It has grown from a humble beginning with seven youngsters to an operation catering for between 70 and 140 students.
“My jaw dropped when I saw him do his first work,” explained Sarah. “He took a tiny image of the Harbour Gate’s 2017 National Day Logo and painted it on a very uneven outside wall at RIA centre – no preparation, no measurement, nothing. He completed a perfect 1.5m replica in minutes!”
Since that first challenge, Othmann has created more greatly-admired works of art at various inclusion events such as Art for Autism Awareness in April 2018, #Inclusive Team Bahrain in December 2018 and this year’s Train around Bahrain and Trash to Treasure events held at Harbour Gate, including more large works, as well as smaller intricate T-Shirt art designs.
He’s currently working as part of a team on a major new project with the working title of Arty the Autism Camel. Further details will be announced in the near future on GDNonline.
Both the British and American ambassadors, Simon Martin and Justin Siberell, respectably, have spoken of their admiration of his work and fellow artists working with him often can’t believe what they see – for someone unable to easily communicate through words, his art certainly speaks for itself.
“At RIA Centre whenever we need a poster we ask Othmann to do it – it’s a joy to watch him in his artistic zone doing what he loves best,” said proud mum and founder Christine, who in 2015 was named on the Queen’s honours list to receive the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). “I never realised quite how talented he was until Sarah pointed it out to me!”
After 23 years always at his family’s side, Christine hoped this year could be different for her dedicated and creative son. “He’s been working very hard on our behalf spreading the inclusion message through his art. We think he deserves a break from us!”
Unfortunately, the family didn’t have the financial reserves at the moment, so friends decided to step in to offer support for him to attend Belwood Lodge in Ontario for a longer spell after spending only one day at the facility last year.
He enjoyed an ‘amazing experience’ and gained so much from it. Friends and fellow artists are convinced that as he mostly communicates through art and hands-on exploration of the world, the Lodge would be perfect for helping him to fulfil his potential.
The aim of the camp is to provide an engaging, safe, open setting that offers an opportunity to make new friends, build on current friendships and develop new social skills, all while guests, quite simply, have plenty of fun.
“Happily we’re almost half way to our goal but, although his place has been reserved, they can’t hold it open indefinitely,” explained Christine. “I’ve spent the last 20 years raising money for RIA and thought now it was Othmann’s turn.”
It will cost $2,000 Canadian dollars (around BD570), plus airfare from Bahrain which is another CD$1,500 (around BD426) which includes transport to and from the lodge. Othmann’s Go Fund Me link is: gf.me/u/srgn7q and https://www.gofundme.com/for-a-special-break-from-parents.
Check out more of his artwork on Instagram: @othmannel
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Stanley Louis Szecowka
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