We are hosting international art workshops as the Culture and Arts Club of Istanbul University, Vocational School of Technical Sciences. Painting, ceramics, printing, weaving, paper and rag doll workshops have been organized in the scope of our “Dreams of Istanbul” project, which we have carried out at the Avcılar campus of our university. During the ten-day schedule, we provided an opportunity for our students and especially for our disabled friends to meet with art, by encouraging them to participate in our workshop studies. We supported the students of the university and young people with disabilities to discover their personalities in common art platforms and express themselves in the frame of artistic language with the personal efforts of our instructors.
When I found out that these disabled teens, who have met with the art of ceramics, wanted to improve themselves in this field, I became extremely happy and decided to support them. Primarily, we emphasized the importance of certifying the ceramic education which they would receive, and later started to conduct ceramic education programs specified by the Directorate of Public Education of the Ministry of National Education (MEB). We have established a ceramic workshop along with the contributions of Bien Seramik and initiated our applied training programs at the Esenler Orthopedically Disabled Association (EOED). We have boosted the self-confidence, health and happiness of our beloved disabled friends by making the best of their unique personal characteristics regarding becoming skillful at handicrafts, strengthening their muscles and expressing their feelings and opinions.
As a result of these extensive trainings and studies, they became capable of instructing their younger, challenged friends who have autism and Down syndrome.
This proficiency is especially important for people with disabilities. According to Turkish Statistical Institute’s 2011 Population and Housing Census (TurkStat, 2011) data, shining out as the most recent field study by the year 2017, people with disabilities aged 3 and up make up 6.9% of the general population. This ratio is 5.9% for males and 7.9% for females. According to the same research, 23.3% of the disabled individuals are illiterate, whereas 23.3% are primary school graduates. Under these circumstances, employed disabled individuals have no other options but to work as unskilled workers under less favorable conditions. The most important reason behind these negative conditions is the attitude of the society, which isolates the disabled, instead of individuals isolating their disabilities. As a result of this attitude, they become deprived of social life, education and art, because they stay indoors under psychological pressure and unavoidably place themselves distant or at times inferior to other people outside. The objective we try to accomplish with these projects is to make sure people with disabilities gain recognition in the arts and crafts scene, by showing that there are no disadvantages but certain differences between the disabled and the non-disabled. We started to work enthusiastically for new projects as they started to realize that their disabilities weren’t causing any obstacles for them, and as we experienced altogether the added value they can provide for themselves and the society if they receive the required education in these fields and subjects.
In the ceramic workshop established in Beykoz Yeni Mahalle Preschool, as part of the “Tiny Hands Overcome Huge Obstacles with Mud” project; 250 children consisting of students and disabled communities from Mehmet Emin Pulatkonak Primary and Secondary School and the Beykoz region, have partipicated in ceramic practices owing to the support of Turkish Ceramic Society, Beykoz Educational Support Association (BEDES), Önder K.I.M Platform, along with the equipment support of the Eczacıbaşı Group. An exhibition showcasing the works of our children has been launched afterwards, with the attendance of the National Education Directorate of the Beykoz District and Beykoz Municipality. Their happiness was worth seeing.
As a result of these studies, we paved the way for our disabled friends who are registered to EOED, to launch an exhibition including the works they have created with the self-confidence they gained after overcoming their disabilities and learning ceramic implementations; instructing their younger disabled friends with what they have learned, and finally making their own money by selling their works as a result of becoming an active member of society in terms of economy. In addition to the exhibitions they have launched in many different events, they sold their works and provided financial support by participating in the exhibition, which was organized in the frame of “4th Ceramic Art Days of Istanbul”, one of the significant events of the field of ceramics.
In the frame of this journey, which we set forth to support the development and promotion for the awareness of social responsibility for our future, we will continue with all of our strength to increase the amount of projects which will raise awareness among our students and communities consisting of challenged individiuals; and to support them to turn these experiences into a lifestyle. Our young members who have graduated from college and returned to their hometowns, aim to adopt this awareness and reach wider masses along with their habits transformed into a course of action.
We feel joyful, happy, proud for every step we take in this journey, also more peaceful than ever for each step towards meeting the deficit we have as a society. We know for a fact that the primary obstacle cannot be found in the lives of individuals but in the minds that divide the differences.