Two disabled artists from Dubai have been granted a golden visa which they believe opens the door to greater independence.
Zambian painter Victor Sitali, Indian artist Sharan Budhrani and their art teacher Gulshan Kavarana received the 10-year residency for their cultural contribution.
The arts community said the UAE visa was a tribute to their talent and spirit.
“It gives me the opportunity to broaden my ideas for my art. I can work harder and dream bigger, ”Sitali said in sign language.
“I am very happy. I now have independence. I can only think of working hard.
Mr. Sitali lost his hearing at the age of three and was introduced to art as a teenager by Ms. Kavarana.
His distinctive work in oil and acrylic on canvas has earned him studio space at Tashkeel, an art gallery, in Dubai.
The 31-year-old organizes national and foreign exhibitions, as well as workshops for students, adults and children with disabilities.
The Sitali family has lived in the United Arab Emirates for over a decade. Her mother Dorothy said the family were proud of her latest achievement.
“It brought us incredible joy,” she said. “We thought this visa was for senior executives. It was a total surprise, a good surprise.
Ms Kavarana, 57, met the family while working as a volunteer at the Dubai Center for Special Needs.
“I worked with Victor when he was only 16 and he didn’t know anything about painting. I quickly realized how talented he was, ”she said.
Ms. Kavarana said it was “wonderful” to be recognized.
“I have dedicated my life to working with determined people, making art with them and taking them to the next level. I thank the government of the United Arab Emirates for giving us this opportunity. “
Mr. Sitali and Mr. Budhrani were part of a vibrant artist community at Mawaheb, a studio in Dubai that nurtured the creative skills of young adults with disabilities.
Mr. Budhrani suffers from muscular dystrophy which weakens his muscles and limits his mobility. Sitting in a wheelchair, he uses remote control cars, spoons and sticks to paint on large canvases.
“This is very exciting news,” said the 30-year-old, who was born in the Emirates and has always known the country as his home.
“I feel there is hope in the future for me. I can always continue my creative journey to inspire and motivate more people with art.
Currently recovering from a severe attack of pneumonia, he needs a tracheostomy tube and ventilator to breathe at night.
He did not stop painting despite the discomfort of being provided with the tube to open his air passage.
“I feel like I always have to keep going and never give up,” he said.
Ms Kavarana said the golden visa recognizes the resilience of artists.
“Sharan has a never give up attitude. He is on a ventilator but nothing prevents him from his passion for art, ”she said.
Nasser Juma bin Sulaiman, Director of Al Fahidi Historic District, appointed Mr. Budhrani and Ms. Kavarana to the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.
“These are very specific cases. Dubai culture has given these artists the opportunity to start their own businesses here and make Dubai their home, ”he said.
Lisa Ball-Lechgar, Deputy Director of Tashkeel, appointed Mr. Sitali and described his contribution as vital to the community.
She said he had recently ventured into abstract art demonstrating his appetite for experimentation.
“He works with passion and energy as a full-time creative professional in Dubai and deserves to be recognized for his unwavering commitment and dedication,” she said.
The golden visa was launched in May 2019 to give exceptional workers and foreign investors the opportunity to root more deeply in the country.
The 10-year residency program has been expanded to attract people from the fields of health, engineering, and art.
The final exhibition of the Mawaheb art studio – in pictures
Update: October 1, 2021, 9:51 a.m.