The art of autism: Kanyeyachukwu Tagbo Okeke’s resolute creativity - GulfToday

The art of autism: Kanyeyachukwu Tagbo Okeke’s resolute creativity

Tagbo 1

A work titled Indomitable.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

The H Dubai is currently collaborating with young Nigerian artist Kanyeyachukwu Tagbo Okeke, who has defied autism, and is showcasing a series of his artworks at the hotel. The exhibition, titled Spectrum Splendor: A Young Artist’s Journey, aims to inspire and promote inclusion through art. Featuring 20 of Kanye’s works, guests are invited to marvel at his incredible creativity (April 1 – 5). The artist was born in 2009, and his compositions have graced the walls of several galleries and museums in Europe, US, Nigeria and other parts of Africa in the last few years. He has gained wide acceptance in the art world, and is a favourite of both collectors and enthusiasts.

His art has been described as “deep, highly intelligent, and unbelievably very mature for his age” (Dr. Kolja Kramer, Curator, Museum of Young Art, MOYA, Vienna, Austria) and he has also been said as one who “infuses the deep colours of our society and in his own way, brings it to life on canvas” (Joseph Umoibom, Curator and GM, Terra Kulture Arts and Studios, Lagos, Nigeria). Kanye has participated in quite a number of exhibitions for his age, most of which have helped to announce him as an emerging creative genius.

He is an award winner and his accolades include the ATIM Magazine World Top 60 Art Masters Award and the Artist of the Year Award at the African Contemporary Art Festival, which have solidified his position as a rising star on the global art scene. His artwork represents his unique personality and his vibrant and expressive artworks have found spaces including solo booth showcases at the Art Vancouver International Art Fair and the Kente Royal Gallery in New York.

One of Kanye’s earliest moments of fame and recognition was in 2018, when at the age of eight, his work — alongside those of three other artists — was exhibited at the OPEC Fund for International Development annual art exhibition in Vienna, Austria. The Duke and Duchess of Austria honoured him with the Austrian Flame of Peace Award - an distinction reserved for artists and members of the diplomatic corps who have used the arts and their positions to foster world peace and development. Kanye is the youngest ever recipient of the award.

Tagbo 2 The artist strikes a pose.

He lives with autism - he has found expression through art. His talent was first noticed at the early age of four, when he would draw on bits of paper, walls, furniture and anywhere he found a flat surface. His abstract expressionism style is a unique blend of colours, shapes, and textures. Subconscious, spontaneous and automatic are some of the words used to describe them. He paints with bold colours and confident brushstrokes, with non-naturalistic depictions. Sophie Blondel, General Manager of The H Dubai, said that “Kanye’s remarkable journey as a young artist living with autism aligns perfectly with our vision. By showcasing his works, we aim to spark meaningful conversations about autism, break down stereotypes, and foster a culture of inclusivity in our community. At The H Dubai, we believe in creating a space that champions diversity, promotes artistic expression, and advocates for inclusion.”

The H Dubai, she added, prides itself on its commitment to inclusivity, demonstrated through its status as the first autism-certified hotel in Dubai. “Through a comprehensive approach, the hotel ensures that individuals on the autism spectrum feel welcomed and supported during their stay. From providing specialised training to staff to sensitising facilities to cater to the diverse needs of guests, The H Dubai strives to create an environment where everyone feels valued and included.”

A special inauguration event took place on April 2, coinciding with World Autism Day. Guests were invited to visit the hotel and consider purchasing the artwork, with a percentage of proceeds from sales being donated to the Dubai Autism Center. In addition to the exhibition, The H Dubai will host an art workshop on April 5, led by Kanye, where he will personally guide and inspire children from Dubai Autism Center to create their own art masterpieces, thus furthering the sense of creativity and inclusion. He expressed his gratitude for the opportunity, stating, “I am honoured to have my artwork showcased at The H Dubai. Art has been my voice, allowing me to express myself in ways I couldn’t otherwise. I hope my journey inspires others and helps raise awareness about autism.”

His story is one that should inspire and reinvigorate hope in everyone, especially the millions of parents, siblings and caregivers of children living with autism all over the world. It is a story that also reminds us that “no child should be left behind” no matter the neuro diversity challenges they may face. The H Dubai has ongoing collaborations with organisations such as the Dubai Autism Center. The hotel regularly conducts craft workshops for children on the spectrum, displays their artwork, fundraises on their behalf, and works on creating vocational training for them. Additionally, the hotel hosts annual Iftar events for children on the spectrum and their families from the Dubai Autism Center and Georgetown Early Intervention Center. The collaboration between The H Dubai and Kanye aims to support the UAE’s vision to become an Autism-friendly destination. It is part of the effort to recognise the importance of inclusivity. The H Dubai is located on Sheikh Zayed Road.

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