Disabled artists from across the world have come together to create murals that inspire solidarity and new artistic voices.
Six different countries participated in the collaboration, with the majority of artists originating from Indonesia and Wales. Other represented nationalities included the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. It took place between January and June 2021, with videos detailing the results recently being released.
Funding and organisational support for the initiative came from the Connect Through Culture (CTC) programme run by the British Council in the UK and Southeast Asia. The CTC programme provides grants to applicants looking to foster international artistic collaboration and values new artistic voices.
Lead by the UK’s Disability Murals and Indonesia’s Jogja Disability Arts, the initiative entitled NETAS/INCUBATE Murals Collaboration brought together several artists with disabilities through video-sharing technology (popularised and made necessary by the pandemic) and recorded their creation process during the painting of each mural.
The name NETAS/INCUBATE (netas meaning ‘to break open’ in Indonesian, and incubate meaning ‘to develop’ in English) is intended to carry forward an idea of emergence, both from the Covid-19 crisis and from a new creative development. The artists explore themes of new expectations, conditions and situations, along with how one may respond to them.
In Wales, artist and SEN educator Lisa Tann worked with students from Ty Gwyn school to create a mural depicting Ayla Halewood with her pet cat, along with a mixture of birds from Cardiff and Jogjakarta.
Indonesian artists Butong Idar (chair of Jogja Disability Arts) and Nano Warsono combined portrayal of disability and figures from Indonesian folklore in their mural.
An interesting moment of cross-cultural unity came during the painting of a pair of birds, a symbolic image in both Javanese and Welsh folklore, and one that was independently used by artists from both cultures without prior communication. This was later made to be emblematic of the project as a whole.
Songs by disabled musicians accompanied the videos produced during the creative process. Blind and visually impaired artists based in Yogyakarta arranged and recorded musical accompaniment in collaboration with the Project-N band.
In a statement on their website, Disability Murals emphasises the significance of the endeavour: “The work gives us a feeling of solidarity…makes us feel part of a wider movement, national and international.”
Warsono echoed this sense of unity, stating: “We may be confined, but the spirit must continue to roar. Even though distance separates us, our brotherhood and friendship are still intertwined.”