Autistic artists celebrated in exhibition

Autism Western Cape (AWC) ambassador, Nicole Henn received the Commitment and Dedication award, pictured in the middle, is flanked, from left, by AWC Managing Director, Mduduzi Dube, the provincial MEC for Social Development Sharna Fernandez, former Provincial Speaker and current Autism activists, Masizole Mnqasela and Artscape CEO Dr Marlene le Roux.

People living with autism displayed their creative work in an art exhibition held at the Artscape theatre last Thursday, April 6.

This exhibition took place in the same week that World Autism Awareness Day was observed last Sunday, April 2.

The Woodstock-based Autism Western Cape (AWC) non-profit held their fifth annual Artist on a Spectrum art exhibition with this year’s theme titled, Beyond the Label.

Hundreds of artworks were displayed in the foyer section of the Artscape and the event was also attended by Artscape CEO, Dr Marlene le Roux as well as the provincial MEC for Social Development Sharna Fernandez.

Managing director for AWC, Mduduzi Dube, says the exhibition celebrates the work of autistic artists. “It makes the autism artists inclusive in the world and also raises awareness of the work done by various organisations that support people with autism,” he says.

Mr Dube is calling on more support to assist organisations that support people with autism.

Autistic artist Madeleifie Kandralidis, 45, from Port Elizabeth, says her art is a reflection of what she experiences in life and it expresses her emotions. “My artwork comes from my heart and I like to express it clearly in a picture form,” she says.

Ms Kandralidis thanks AWC for helping her to share her artwork on a big scale. “It is therapeutic and I have been doing art my entire life which was inspired by my mother,” she says.

Autistic artist, Natheer Bloys,19, from Mitchells Plain, drew his inspiration for his artwork from video game characters and comic book heroes. “It is great that I could share my artwork, I always shared it at school, though this is a big opportunity,” he says.

He says he would like to become an animator one day when he finishes school. His mother, Dielshaan Bloys says she is grateful for the support given by AWC as it’s the first time her son’s artwork has been displaced at a big exhibition.

“It’s good that people can view their artwork and they gave a lot of positive feedback that gave them inspiration for what they would like to do in the future,” she says.

A special Commitment and Dedication award was handed to 24-year-old autistic artist Nicole Henn from Plumstead who has been an ambassador for AWC since 2019 and has been working on Artists on a Spectrum since the beginning. “I was not expecting this, I am so grateful that we have been doing these art exhibitions for five years,” she says.

Dr Le Roux says she wants the Artscape to be an inclusive space for everyone. “We want to inform society about autism and make them more aware that everyone has the right to a quality of life,” she says.

Ms Fernandez says there is still a significant cloud of stigma around Autism Spectrum Disorder, with many people still not fully understanding what it means. “I urge parents to be aware of signs that their child may be on the spectrum, as there are non-invasive interventions that can be implemented from an early age,” she says.

Ms Fernadez says that the provincial department of social development has been allocated R61 million from the 2023/2024 Provincial Budget which will be allocated to 62 Social Service Organisations (SSOs) that provide support to people and children with disabilities, and their families.

Ms Fernandez has praised the artist for their work, passion and dedication that they have put into their artwork. “Congratulations to all the artists and everyone working behind the scenes to make tonight happen,”she says.

Autistic artist Madeleifie Kandralidis displaying her artwork at the exhibition.
Autistic artist, Natheer Bloys displaying his artwork.