No one who sees the photographs of beautiful flowers, buildings and museum artefacts, all nicely framed and labelled, and being displayed at the State Bank Museum here, would be able to guess that they were clicked by blind persons. But coming up close you notice the pictures are embossed and the labels have another transparent plastic strip with something in Braille.
“The embossing has been done carefully by hand by the museum staff to emphasise the outlines so that the photographers are able to feel their work,” said museum guide Asad ur Rehman. “The transparent Braille labelling is also for them,” he explained.
There are a total of 34 photographs of ancient coins from the museum along with a few other artefacts but the most interesting of photographs have to be those of the beautiful flowers from the museum grounds. Several of them also had a little slip on the side bearing the word ‘sold’ as each is for sale for Rs1,000, the proceeds from which will go to the photographer and his or her institution.
Mohammad Aslam, assistant director at the museum, said that there were some nine blind persons from Blind Resource Foundation Pakistan who took part in the workshop which took place in three parts on April 4, April 8 and May 6. “We trained the teachers from the institution on the first day and then four days later we had the students. Then about a month later, they all were called over for practicals,” said Mr Aslam. “That’s when they took these photographs, many of which have also been sold,” he added.
“Each blind person who took part in the workshops was later awarded a certificate and Rs5,000 by Governor Sindh Mohammad Zubair on August 14,” the assistant director said.
Dr Asma Ibrahim, State Bank Museum director, said that the idea about the workshop and exhibition came to her while attending the International Council of Monuments and Sites during the Commonwealth Association of Museums Conference in India earlier. “Our slogan ‘Beat disability’ is for seeking new ways for the disabled to express their creativity,” she said. “We received training during the conference. We were shown how to make museums more accessible for the disabled,” she said.
“Our training also involved being blindfolded and taken to a heritage building in Jaipur,” Dr Ibrahim explained.
“During training we were made to realise that feeling a blind person gets when stepping into the sunlight from the shade, how to use the sense of touch, sound and smell,” she shared.
There was a picture of a crow and a pigeon resting on the museum’s roof. Dr Ibrahim explained that the blind photographer was able to capture them on camera through the sounds the birds made such as the crow’s cawing. “They were all so excited being able to do what they did. They had their tactile mobile phones to take the pictures with. Later, they also took selfies with them,” she said.
Originally published in Dawn, August 19th, 2017