Art therapy an outlet for Aids orphans

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2007, 12:00am

Children's pain at loss on display in foundation's exhibition

The painting is beautiful - a landscape with a bright red sun, lush green mountains, white birds and colourful plants.

What is different about it are the gravestones in the foreground, inscribed with the words 'my dad', 'my uncle' and 'my grandpa'.

The painting is among a collection by 18 Aids orphans from Anhui province on show at a gallery in Wan Chai. It was painted by 13-year-old Xiao Yu, who often visits the graveyard where her father and several other family members who died of Aids years ago were buried. In text next to the painting, she says: 'Dad, grandma, grandpa, how are you all in another world? ... I feel very sad whenever I come to visit you, as I cannot see you anymore. Whenever I miss you, I think of the past when I told you jokes. But now can you hear what I say?'

It is hard to be indifferent when you stand in front of the 26 paintings, each telling a touching story.

The exhibition, presented by Chi Heng Foundation, an Aids support group, is aimed at providing a platform for people to learn about and help these children, who have lost one or both parents to the disease.

The foundation is a benefactor of this year's Operation Santa Claus.

Agatha Lee Wai-fong, a retired art teacher and Chi Heng volunteer, taught the children to paint at a summer camp organised by the foundation in Shanghai in August. 'These kids are really smart and lovely. They try very hard. They are more sensible than the kids of the same age in Hong Kong,' she said.

Ms Lee and helpers taught the 18 Aids orphans from Fuyang county how to use watercolours, pastels and Chinese ink as a way to channel their thoughts and emotions.

'Art therapy is very important to these children,' said Ms Lee, who was shocked when she first saw an Aids orphan's painting in depressing colours and rough lines. 'Most of them have accumulated too much pain, sadness and even hatred inside. They need to a channel to release it.'

A case in point is Kun Lun, 11, who missed his father. When asked to draw a picture of himself being reunited with his father, the boy put the scene on another planet.

'Dad, I miss you so much. If I have the chance, I'll take a spacecraft to come to visit you in another world,' the boy wrote for his picture.

The works are winners from last year's 'Living with HIV Charity Drawing Competition', which raised HK$40,000 for Aids-affected children on the mainland. The exhibition, at A-Link in C.C. Wu Building, Hennessy Road, is open from 11am to 8pm every day until November 30. Entry is free.