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Art

Tackling Bullying Through Art

Hariz Shifi
Hariz Shifi with his “Tranquil Mountain”painting. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG 

Dr Irum Mizra is a mother like no other. When I met Dr Irum and her son Hariz Shifi, aged 12, I realised that she had not just gone an ‘extra mile’ to ensure her son’s happiness, but also run a maternal marathon for the sake of Hariz whom she believes has a special artistic gift.

“I was never very artistic myself, but ever since he was five years old, his schoolteachers have told me Hariz has a special talent that I ought to nurture,” she tells BDLife.

When he was seven, Dr Irum discovered something more about her son that convinced her the teachers were correct.

“Hariz didn’t tell me he had a problem at school. But when I found one of his drawings in the back of an exercise book, I realised that he was being bullied. But I also realised that while he didn’t talk much, he communicates effectively through his art.”

She wanted to do more for him, besides providing Hariz with basic art materials that he requires. So she started researching the local art scene. She began to visit galleries and attend art exhibitions. That is how she heard about Patrick Mukabi and the Dust Depo Art Studio.

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“I decided to go to Patrick’s studio and ask for his advice,” says Dr Irum, having already decided that she would like to help her son to have his own art exhibition.

“Patrick suggested I have a group exhibition including a few of the young artists working at Dust Depo,” she says.

another painting titled “Ferocity”

another painting titled “Ferocity”. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

Dr Irum liked the idea, but Hariz was slightly intimated by the whole plan. But his mother proceeded. She selected several Dust Depo artists whose works she liked and then went around researching where to hold the show.

Finally, she settled on Lavington Mall on the ground floor near one of Maryann Muthoni’s playful mosaic tile murals.

She also liked Patrick’s idea of including older, more experienced artists in the show which she entitled ‘Canvas Talks’.

The Dust Depo painters who exhibited alongside Hariz included Hannington Gwanzu, Agnes Murugi, Lewis Thuku, John Kariuki, Kennedy Kinyua, Morris Mbuchu, Geoffrey Waweru, Allan Kioko, Finnie Wafula, Sawe Gichia, Patrick Karanja, Taran and Mandy Basan, Kidiavai and Mishack Tornadonez, John Mwema, Juma Byrone, Ibra Ndungu, Solomon Luvai, Zacaharia Magak and Patrick Mukabi.

The three artists who were not from Dust Depo were Patrick Okumu, a friend of the Studio, Hamza Nazir and Hariz, both of whom are 12.

A number of paintings managed to sell, although there was one work that was not for sale.

“We didn’t want to sell Hariz’s rhino,” says Dr Irum who feels this piece reflects a new maturity in her son’s style of painting. And she is right.

Both anatomically and texturally, Hariz’s rhino painting reflects a qualitative improvement as compared to other of his earlier works which were also in the show.

Hariz's mother is already planning for another group show.

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