Kenyan artist draws braille paintings for the visually impaired

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Kenyan artist Tina Benawra is perhaps the only artist in the world who draws in Braille, a tactile writing system for the visually impaired, giving them the opportunity to experience art. While typically in galleries visitors are often strictly prohibited from touching the works of art, guests are welcome to touch and smell them.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA) ahead of World Painters Day, observed on February 26, the 39-year-old artist said his paintings are expressions of his heart for those who are blind or visually impaired.

Benawra learned Braille in school for the sole purpose of incorporating this writing system into his paintings.

“I am motivated by the challenges that our environment experiences and the different people that I meet. I am inspired by anything and everything, but prefer to raise awareness of the things that trouble our society,” she said.

In her studio, busy with brushes and colors, she is working on a painting to raise awareness of the crocodile leather industry in Kenya.

While some people in Kenya breed and farm crocodiles legally with licenses from the Kenya Wildlife Service, others poach them in the wild and sell them for leather.

“It is a message that I put in my paintings and the same messages can be read and felt by the blind. I make my paintings, not only for people who can see but also for blind people who can feel the images and the interpret,” she said.

Benawra’s paintings have been exhibited in top hotels in Kenya. His work also goes to the Christian Blind Mission, which has worked in Kenya since 1970 to prevent blindness, improve health and help people with disabilities go to school, earn a living and gain respect in their communities.

“I donate braille paintings so they can be auctioned off and the money used to help visually impaired children,” she said.

Winnie Ongonje, a 30-year-old massage therapist who lost her sight in 2010 in an accident, said people like her benefit from Benawra’s work.

“We, as people living with blindness, appreciate such initiatives. They allow us to have the chance to appreciate the paintings and to see them in a way that cannot be done otherwise,” he said. she said, adding that Benawra’s works have helped people living with blindness understand the beautiful world of creativity and art.

Benawra pointed out that a lack of financial assistance has affected her work, as COVID-19 cut off most of her sources of funding. But she hopes the situation will change in the post-pandemic world.

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