Dubai-based deaf artist shares his voice through paintings

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Dubai-based artist Roshan Perera, who is deaf, discovered at a young age that painting was a way to share his voice with the world.

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Speaking with Al Arabiya English through a sign language interpreter at the ‘Art in the Park’ exhibition on Friday, Perera described the joy he experiences from seeing people enjoy his work.

“People don't know that deaf people can paint,” he explained, “But now they say, ‘oh, that person did this?’ That makes me really happy.”

The 48-year-old from Sri Lanka spoke about the struggles of living with a hearing impairment.

“We feel more pressure. We want to excel in our field. The hearing people have all the opportunities, but for us it’s so hard. Who will take interest in us? That’s just reality.

“I’m happy that I’m able to do art and be able to express myself and send my voice to the people.”

Perera discovered painting at the age of 14 after teacher Peter Rogers inspired him to take up the brush.

He believes that his disability gives him a more finely-tuned sense of visual perception, and he uses it to his advantage.

“I’m visually good – I’ve always been best at painting. It’s my strength.”

The pandemic hit Perera especially hard. He had been working with FedEx for years, as one of the first deaf employees at the company in the Middle East.

Economic stress from disruption to global supply chains meant that the part-time painter lost his job at the logistics firm.

After spending six months in his home country of Sri Lanka, he managed to secure a visa to move back to Dubai and take up painting full-time.

He now sells his paintings and works on commissions as his main source of income, working with Legacy Art Dubai.

“It was a rollercoaster,” he said of the pandemic. “You can’t find anything, you’re just staying at home all the time waiting for opportunities.”

“I lost all my money, I didn’t have resources. But I really want to continue painting, I’m really happy if I can progress in this area.”

He went on to say: “I want people to see my paintings, I want to capture their interest and make more paintings.”

He exhibited his work at the Art in the Park event in Index Mall, DIFC – an exhibition put together to display work done by artists with disabilities that ran from March 22 to 26.

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