A platform for autistic and disabled artists

Hazrita-Mohd-HattaPETALING JAYA: Hazrita Mohd Hatta didn’t know what to expect as she approached a booth set up by the National Autism Society of Malaysia (Nasom) at KLCC two years ago. But she’s glad that she did.

“They were displaying paintings by autistic children and I was really impressed with what I saw,” said Hazrita, who comes from a family of artists.

Hazrita was then only just getting back to work after surviving a stroke which left her temporarily unable to walk, talk or use her right arm.

Because of the stroke, she had to give up her fast-paced job in events management. So she started her own business of organising art exhibitions featuring works of amateur artists, which allowed her to work at her own pace.

“I started Art Market Malaysia in 2015, a year after my stroke,” she said. “Not long after my first event, I was at KLCC and that was when I saw the Nasom booth.”

Hazrita said she loved the paintings but was sad to learn that the artists didn’t have a proper platform to display and sell their works.

“That’s when I knew I had to do something. With my business, I knew I could help provide that platform.”

Since then, Hazrita has been working with Nasom to collect, exhibit and sell works produced by autistic artists. Art Market Malaysia does the same for other disabled artists.

Art Market Malaysia, which moves from one place to another nearly every month, doesn’t take a single sen from the sale of works by autistic and disabled artists.

“In the case of autistic artists, 90% goes back to them and 10% goes to Nasom to help fund its many programmes,” she said.

At any one time and wherever Art Market goes, the works of at least 15 autistic and disabled artists will be on display alongside those of amateur artists.

The works of the autistic and disabled include oil paintings, sculptures, doodles and handicrafts. The artists come from all walks of life and they include children.

The paintings are sold at RM150 or more. “They’re are worth every single sen,” said Hazrita.

“The autistic artists, especially the kids, are amazing. They have so much talent and they paint from the heart. They paint or draw what they want.

“They can’t replicate what they’ve drawn or painted before, and you can’t force them to paint something they don’t want. That’s why each artwork is truly unique.”

Throughout April, Art Market Malaysia will be having an exhibition at 1Utama’s Ledge Gallery on the 3rd floor of the mall’s new wing.