Like many other young artists her age, 16-year-old Robaba Mohammadi dreams of holding international art exhibitions.
The only difference — she draws not with her fingers but with her mouth.
She was born with partial paralysis of her limbs and is unable to control her hands and feet, except for a few toes.
Mohammadi came from a poor family in Ghazni province who moved to Kabul when she was three after they realized her disability. They hoped to get medical help for her condition, to no avail.
“Before I starting drawing I was hopeless and when my sisters and brothers were going to school I always said to myself ‘See, they are younger than me but they have gained lots of knowledge, such as writing and studying but me, I am not even able to write my own name’. I was so depressed I was even crying two or three times a day,” Mohammadi said.
Less than two years ago, she started drawing and now she dreams of holding her art exhibition at Aga Khan museum in Canada. She even drew life-like sketches of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Afghan-born Canadian politician, Maryam Monsef.
“My dream is to hold my art exhibition in Aga Khan Museum which is one of the biggest museums in Canada, and I’m requesting my people to help me in order to reach my dream which is having my art exhibition in Canada,” Mohammadi said.
Decades of conflict, poverty and neglect prevents many disabled Afghans from reaching their goals. They are often unemployed and face discrimination in a society where disability is perceived as a weakness.
“When you want to make any kind of art but you don’t have hands or feet, you have nothing at all, especially when you want to do something but you can’t. Sometimes when I need something and I ask my sisters for help, they say ‘we don’t have time we are busy with writing or something else’ then it really hurts me. I have asked my sisters so many times to leave me alone inside the room,” Mohammadi, who has three sisters and two brothers, said.
She said she also dreams of one day going to school to acquire knowledge.
“Robaba doesn’t have hands for drawing but God has granted her the ability to draw with her mouth. She is doing a very impossible task and before, we didn’t think she could do it. Now we are hopeful she can improve a lot in her career,” said 13-year-old Shakila Mohammadi, Robaba’s sister.
Robaba Mohammadi said she hopes her art will provide a different picture of Afghanistan which has struggled with decades of conflict and war.