why teach the blind to paint?…

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27/01/2011 by Sarah Ritchie

Zeng Bailiang

Zeng Bailiang and painting student

Here is a completely inspirational article from Reuters (abridged). It is the story of one man’s passion and compassion, and how he has changed lives.

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Inside a brightly-lit room in a lighting store, painting teacher Zeng Bailiang and his group of volunteers are patiently teaching a group of blind students the basics of Chinese painting.

The students in the classes in Nanning, the provincial capital of China’s southern Guangxi province, spend hours practising brushstrokes on a special paper, feeling with their fingers the different wet and dry areas to guide them on their painting.

Eventually they get to the point where they can dip a brush, similar to the ones used for Chinese calligraphy, into black ink and draw things such as mountains or bamboo trees with long strokes. Short strokes can create flowers or birds.

Zeng, 55, is a self-taught artist who has been conducting classes for the blind for the past several decades. He says the classes fuel his passion for art with a sense of satisfaction that comes from helping the students – many of whom were orphans who came to him wanting something new and fun to do.

It was a young blind orphan that changed Zeng’s life and introduced him to the potential of the blind. One day he saw a boy drawing a circle and some dots on the sand, and asked him what he was doing.

The boy told him, in vivid detail, that he was drawing a red worm with black eyes and feet – a response that shocked Zeng and, he said, made him realize the boundless imagination and artistic potential of the blind.

We should not view painting as an aesthetic art form, but to put it accurately painting is an emotive art form. So I decided to teach blind people how to paint,” he said.

Zeng said he felt blind people could do well in art because they are making better use of their other senses.

“I must light the lamp in their hearts. And since then, I have been doing this for almost 40 years now.”

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