Monday, February 9, 2009

How art is healing South Ossetia

A Russian organisation that helps people with disabilities develop their art skills has opened a centre in South Ossetia. Here, children who lived through the hardships of last summer's war can find a safe - and creative - outlet for their feelings.

Dima Barsov can hardly move. Since early childhood he has been almost totally paralyzed, and now only part of his right arm works. Two years ago Dima discovered a skill for drawing icons. He says religion is something that keeps him alive.

"Faith is the basis for many things, and icons are reflections of what's in our souls," Barsov says. Dima is one of 300 members of the InvaStudio - a Krasnodar-based non-governmental organisation that aims to help young people with disabilities by teaching them arts and crafts. Those behind the project say the work also helps to heal children who have suffered emotional trauma.

Recently, a new branch of the centre opened in South Ossetia, and the kids of Tskhinvalthe are producing their first drawings. The often show Georgian tanks on the city's streets with Russian soldiers coming to the rescue.

Most works hanging in the hallways of the InvaStudio reflect the inner worlds of their creators. Some look funny and playful. Others, like the icons that Nastya paints, are very serious.
The icons made by these children received an official blessing from the late Russian Patriarch Alexy II.

Lyudmila Rysukhina is the chairman of the InvaStudio. She says when new students arrive in class, they change in many ways, find new friends, and do something that gives new meaning to their lives.

"Every person with a disability has got to have hope, and when he starts painting icons, he usually creates miracles," Rysukhina says.

Besides Russian Orthodox icons, Dima Barsov's works include copies of famous drawings. His latest are versions of the works of Leonardo da Vinci. Although this young Russian artist and many of his friends at the InvaStudio may never be able to fully enjoy the beauty of the outside world, they do their best to share with other people the light they have within.

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