For the first years of his illness Javid was bedridden. Time passed slowly. In order to help it pass quicker, Javid’s parents brought him pens and coloring books. That was his first acquaintance with the arts.
As of December 2018, there are about 620,000 disabled people like Javid living in Azerbaijan. These data, from the country’s State Statistical Committee, also show that more than 71,000 of the country’s disabled people are under 18. Researchers write that prejudice, stigma, and negative stereotypes towards people with disabilities are commonplace in the South Caucasus. Their marginalization is very apparent; as Chai Khana has previously reported, few public buildings are accessible for people with disabilities, and for many families, disabled people are just a piece of furniture to be kept at home, away from the judging eyes of neighbors. Accordingly, nearly half of Azerbaijan’s disabled children are educated at home, away from their peers.
However, the situation seems to be changing, even if change is coming slowly. While prejudices against them remain, people with disabilities are now seen more frequently on the streets of Azerbaijan’s capital Baku. Javid and Narmin are two of those active young people: out and about, pursuing their dreams, and not ashamed to be seen.
Javid, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, is now studying at the of Academy of Fine Arts in Baku. “Being disabled is not a problem for people with disabilities, who forget about them sooner or later. A human being can adapt to anything, and can find ways to cope,” says the 26-year old artist.
Narmin Guliyeva is another student of the prestigious art school. The 26-year old expressed the same thoughts with Javid. “I try to do everything by myself. I don’t ask anybody to help me, nothing like that. As I said, I’m very active and I don’t isolate myself because of my disability,” says Narmin, who uses a wheelchair during the day.
To learn about their passion for painting, watch this video story by Shahin Khalil.