​Liku Maria Takahashi Exhibition

2016リオデジャネイロ・パラリンピック期間中アート企画

2016.9.8 - 23

「素敵な絵を

見せてくれて

ありがとう」

(弱視の女児/リオデジャネイロ)

2016リオデジャネイロ・パラリンピック期間中アート企画・高橋りく個展でのベンジャミンコンスタン盲学校の子供達

2016.9.8 - 23

Liku Maria Takahashi Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro during Rio 2016 Paralympic Games

●Organized by:Instituto Benjamin Constant (IBC is a part of Brazil's Ministry of Education) ・ JADS ● In association with:Consulado Geral do Japão no Rio de Janeiro ● Sponsored by:Lufthansa・TURNER COLOR WORKS・YPP・ADAMS JAPAN ● Supported by:Yuchicom Comunicação, Comércio e Serviços Ltda.・Tokyo Association of the Blind・Art for the Light

Reflection

I arrived in Rio de Janeiro on August 26. Final preparations were underway for the Paralympics, and the streets seemed a little quieter in the wake of the Olympics and the clamor that had surrounded the change of Brazil’s president. Sometimes called “the most dangerous city in South America,” Rio was filled with police officers and some 30,000 military personnel deployed to ensure the safety of the athletes and tourists, and to bring peace to the residents of the favelas (slums). Like their peers in Tokyo, young Cariocas were engrossed in Pokémon Go. Praça XV de Novembro, the famed square in the heart of the metropolis, had become a magnet for the game’s fans, with throngs descending upon it after five o’clock every evening, smartphones clutched in their hands. The festive mood was punctuated by swarms that suddenly swept across the plaza whenever an exotic monster appeared.

While the Paralympics were in session, I held my exhibition at Instituto Benjamin Constant, at their gracious invitation. Located near the city’s center, this 162-year-old school for the visually impaired was the alma mater of many athletes who captured medals at the Rio Paralympics in sports such as soccer, judo, and swimming.

The exhibition presented artistic pictures designed to be accessible to anyone, including people with visual impairments. This was done by tactilely expressing different colors with sand and pebbles of different diameters, such as by using larger grains for darker hues. The images depicted diverse subjects, such as flowers, zebras, and 36 national flags. The most popular work was a scoreboard of the Paralympics’ blind soccer matches that was regularly updated with the latest results, drawing reactions like “They’ve just added another score to the board” or “Brazil beat China yesterday” while sparking animated discussion among sighted and visually impaired people alike.

The exhibition attracted a large turnout—including the school’s children, their families and friends, educators, Japanese-Brazilians, as well as Paralympics athletes and supporters—and was covered by TV Brasil in the evening news on the first day of the Paralympics. One of the more memorable aspects of the event was that some students came every day to enjoy their favorite picture, often bringing along friends who had not yet visited the gallery. And, sometimes those friends returned with other playmates in tow. For the many who had never experienced pictorial art appreciation, the exhibition opened the door to a whole new world of culture.

There was just one thing that I think was unfortunate    : the small number of sighted visitors. My project is not some sort of welfare activity. If the lack of interest among able-bodied people persists, the prospects are dim for further success during the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. I seek to change society for the better through the power of modern art. The focus of my project is to create art that truly stirs the heart of the beholder. Moreover, since this art can also be experienced by people with visual impairment, it calls attention to the need to develop a society that gives due consideration to the rights of people with disabilities.

Maria da Gloria Almeida, a professor at Instituto Benjamin Constant, says, “We have always strived to foster awareness of the darkness enshrouding Brazil. In a society where many struggle each day to feed themselves, the rights of people with visual impairments and their hardships in employment still remain largely unaddressed.” During the Paralympics, the activities of people with disabilities were covered every day by diverse media outlets, but once the torch was extinguished, TV stations went back to just showing able-bodied people. I want to ask the media to rethink how the Paralympics can reshape our society.

Together, many small acts of volunteerism add up to the powerful force we need to change the mindset of all those around us. There is still much that can be done to make Tokyo a city more supportive of the needs of diverse people. The involvement of high school/college students and younger workers—people who until now have had little experience in volunteering—will be key to the success of the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.

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