FOR the first time in the country and possibly in South East Asia, a visual art gallery for the visually impaired was launched in Penang on Monday.
The St. Nicholas’ Home Open Air Sculpture Gallery has sculptures for the blind and the visually impaired to enjoy by touching, feeling and appreciating them.
The gallery came about when Japanese artist Hitori Nakayama, who was also the designer and man behind the sculptures, was at a concert performance five years ago when the Waseda Band Ensemble performed in Penang before children and persons with visual impairment.
The audience then requested permission to touch and feel the musical instruments.
“I was struck with the idea at that instant and the rest as they say, is history,” said Nakayama.
Nakayama then worked together with six other artists from the Friends of Penang Earth Group, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to provide a platform in promoting the local art scene in Penang.
He added that it took two years for the group to complete the sculptures including the planning process.
About 50 residents from St. Nicholas from all ages present during the launch, were given the opportunity to touch and feel the sculptures for the first time.
One of them, 56-year-old T. Muniandy said he was glad to be given an opportunity to appreciate visual arts, albeit in his own way by using other senses instead of sight.
“This is a good step towards doing away with the discrimination when it comes to arts and culture,” said the office helper who has been with St. Nicholas’ Home for the past 19 years.
His friend, R. Krishnan, 45, agreed.
“Just because we cannot see, it does not mean we cannot appreciate the arts,” said the basket weaver.
The gallery is sponsored by IJM Corporation Berhad as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility initiative.
IJM Corporation Berhad northern region general manager Toh Chin Leong said that the idea of creating sculptures for the blind with inscriptions in Braille concurred well with IJM’s stance that appreciation of arts and culture is for people from all races and different walks of life.
“Everyone is entitled to experience, enjoy and embrace the abundant varieties of the visual arts. This open air sculpture gallery is a breakthrough in advancing the revolution of making arts accessible to all, regardless of their physical limitations. It is also a testament that anything is possible,” he said.
Also present at the launch were Pulau Tikus assemblyman Koay Teng Hai and St Nicholas’ Home chairman Rev. Andrew Phang.