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Gen Y Speaks: I withdrew from the world after a road accident paralysed me. Art made me whole again

I remember growing up as a very active kid, who looked forward to playing football with my friends  almost every day after school.

Despite trying every day, I couldn’t pick up a single marble. Even the simple act of sitting up to put on clothes was very challenging, because I had no arm and abdominal strength after the accident..

Eventually, I gave up.

I began to bottle everything up and started isolating myself from everyone to keep my distance. My mental health began to deteriorate, and I could only suffer depression on my own.

Nobody could relate to the pains and struggles I was going through. In my mind, I had the impression that everyone was trying to get rid of me because I was a nuisance, even though that was not the case.

These thoughts grew louder and made me stop sharing how I felt with the people around me. My seclusion lasted for almost two years.

RAN OUT OF EXCUSES

One day, I decided to attend an event organised by SPD.

I ran out of excuses on why I couldn’t make it for their events and finally decided to attend this one. It was a simple get-together of SPD clients involved in its various programmes.

The event opened my eyes to the fact that I was not alone in my misfortune. I met someone who seemed to have a disability much more severe than mine, but was capable of commuting freely with effort and determination on his part.

That inspired me to try pushing myself mentally and physically to travel in public places, instead of staying at home all the time. It also helped me to build my confidence and self-esteem gradually.

I also rekindled my interest in art during my rehabilitation at SPD.

I was part of a pilot art session that included mouth-painting, hand-painting and drawing.

Even though my right hand was paralysed, I still had around 20 to 30 percent of control in my left hand. I was able to grip the pen with my fingers and use my left shoulder to move the pen around when creating my graphic designs.

The sessions eventually led to a small art exhibition showcasing our artwork. At the exhibition, I heard compliments and saw the smiles of people looking at my artwork, which brought me satisfaction and joy.

After the art exhibition, SPD offered me the opportunity to design a few festive greeting cards for them. I received many compliments and appreciation for my designs which gave me a sense of success and inspired me to pursue digital illustrations and graphic design.

It was this experience that led to my job today as a freelance graphic designer for SPD, working on projects with various clients.

RESTARTING WITH ART

Over the years, I have learnt that art is subjective.

We do not need to explain why an art piece is created a certain way. Art has a unique way of connecting us as humans and not based on our abilities or disabilities.

The knowledge that people would see my work for what it is, regardless of my disability, instil a sense of pride in me and motivates me to do better and to achieve more.

While art is what I do to make a living, it is also therapeutic.

Creating my art pieces has given me a sense of fulfilment and purpose. I hope to be able to inspire anyone who wants to pursue arts or graphic design, whether or not they are persons with a disability or able-bodied.

This year, I am thrilled to see my artwork displayed at Shaping Hearts 2022, which is organised by the North East Community Development Council and is happening from Nov 12 to 27 at Our Tampines Hub and One Punggol.

It is Singapore’s largest inclusive arts festival, and my art will be displayed proudly among the work of other talented artists with disabilities.

Shaping Hearts has opened many doors of job opportunities for me and has increased awareness of the different types of disabilities, including lesser-known ones like spinal cord injury survivors.

Events like these give artists with disabilities a platform to showcase our creative expressions and share our works and stories. It brings the community together to build an inclusive society through art.

It was the persistence and determination of organisations that helped me break out of my stubbornness and isolation. They gave me the strength I needed to open up.

Their activities and events made me realise there are people who have not given up on me and are working hard to give recognition to what I can achieve. I hope it makes a difference for those who are going through hardships of their own too.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Jamirul Syafiq is a quadriplegic spinal cord injury survivor and a freelance graphic designer for SPD, a charity for the physically disabled.

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