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Children still grow up separated from their families in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Gulsara Rajabova: Art as a therapy
Gulsara Rajabova has given her life to art. Inspired by her uncle Qosim Mirahmedov, who was a famous sculptor, and who with his example first showed her that disabilities cannot stop an artist from creating. Observing him in the process of work as a child, she later became a talented sculptor and an honorary member of the Art Academy of Uzbekistan. However, most of the people know her not just for her golden hands, but for her kind heart and strong spirit. She grew up in a family with 9 other children, most of which were adopted by her mother. She describes her childhood as the time when she learnt equity in practice.
How have you made this decision? How did you come to what you are doing now?
Once I was invited to be on the jury board for the International Art Contest “The world of charming colors” held among children with disabilities. I was astonished by their works and the efforts it takes them to make a painting. I was absolutely lost in judging people who painted with their feet, with their teeth and I had the hardest time dealing with emotions when judging the contest results. Being under these strong impressions I recalled my uncle’s message to me. Before he died, he told me that I have to leave “my trace in life” and as a result I came up with the idea of opening an art center for children with disabilities. I had my fears of course, because I never organized anything before. As my uncle told “if you decide to do a good deed, God will help you” and I really witnessed something magical. Suddenly puzzles started assembling. I was offered to occupy the position of the director of “SANVIKT” art-center, the name coming from the Uzbek word ‘sanat’ which means ‘art’ and the word ‘victory’. Since then we are doing our work under this slogan “the victory is in art”. We grant these children everything we have – our knowledge, our time, our talent. They absorb it and many of them have now found their place in life. Some of them are teaching at a university, and others are artists.
What obstacles did you face on your way? Was any of them connected with the fact that you are a woman?
I never found an easy way to anything, so I always made my way through the jungle. In terms of working in arts, when I studied sculpting, I was the only girl in the class and of course it was strange of everybody. But I should say, with the appropriate behavior, I got everyone respect me and my vision.
When it comes to running my art-therapy center, I faced many obstacles, but I would not say they were somehow connected with my gender. Being inexperienced, being a person of art and totally unpractical, being emotional, lacking communication skills when it came to fundraising – all of those stood in my way. But I can state that life teaches you everything once you have set your mind on something and God helps you if you commit to help others.
What message would you send to others?
I would like to send a message on behalf of the whole art-center of ours – hurry up to do good. People keep asking me why I don’t spend more time for my art. Of course, I have a lot of ideas and desire, but as my works are my fruits, results of these children we teach how to do art are even sweeter fruits of my work. These children are my masterpieces: our graduates become artists, sculptors, fashion designers, embroiderers or professionals in other fields. Their achievements like getting a good job, winning a contest, or even personal achievements like getting married or having a baby grant me a great joy. I would not be able to feel so happy if I were only engaged in my own art. It gives you a lot of joy when you invest in the vulnerable, when you find them to become confident, to express their talent, to find their life path. I love what I do, this is my trace in life. No matter who you are - a man or a woman, hurry up to do good.