Chinese teacher helps blind find confidence in art

Mon Jan 17, 2011 6:06am EST
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By Royston Chan

NANNING, China (Reuters Life!) - 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.

Through the years he has experimented with different methods of teaching Chinese painting to the blind students, since he sees standard techniques as conformist and lacking life.

"The way I teach will be different for different students, we should not use 'dead" techniques. Of course it would be convenient, but it would stifle their creativity," Zeng said.

"So we have to adapt to different people, because everyone is unique and they have their own intellect and we should respect that. My way of teaching is to find out what they are good at and use artistic concepts to help them grasp that skill."

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.   Continued...