Is seeing believing? COTA’s sensory photo exhibition

I don’t know about you, but whenever I go to an art gallery or museum, I always want to touch everything on show – even more so when I see the “please don’t touch” sign! You can perhaps imagine (and sympathise with) my delight when I discovered earlier this year that we at Children of the Andes were going to be hosting a sensory photo exhibition and inviting our supporters to touch the photos.

COTA partner the Carvajal Foundation is a leading Colombian NGO that develops innovative social development projects reaching thousands of people in the poorest and most marginalised areas of Cali. With support from COTA in 2003, Carvajal set up El Vallado, a disability resource centre equipped with a wide range of specialist educational tools for people with disabilities.

Last year, with our support, Carvajal held a photography workshop for children and young people with disabilities, four of whom are visually impaired. The photos have been embossed so that all of the children and their families could “see” them – if not with their eyes with their hands. We were lucky enough to exhibit these photos in London this month in conjunction with our annual Project Talk.

The exhibition was fascinating in so many ways. The photos were a joy in themselves, showing the natural beauty of life in Colombia, whilst proving that living with a disability does not exclude you from the art of photography.

“The main objective was to change, in the long term, the relationship between technology, art and disability. We also wanted this learning experience to improve the participants’ social inclusion… We saw that the participants really made the most of the (photography) resources that were available. They realised that these things are not out of their reach and that, on the contrary, they are there for everyone to enjoy. We want their families and community to remember this, and to have faith in their abilities” Photography teacher Oscar Eduardo Marmolejo.

For all of us at COTA, it was such a pleasure to share the children’s work with our supporters, who help to make our work possible and for whom we are truly grateful. We loved watching our guests close their eyes and  trace the outlines of the images with their fingers, wondering what they were looking at and finally admiring what they saw.

We will be exhibiting the photos in the UK throughout the year, so keep visiting our events page for dates and venues. If you would like to display this exhibition in your area please contact Heidy on 0207 549 0232 for more information. A video of COTA’s 2011 Project Talk will also be available on our website shortly. If you like what you have seen, and would like to send a message to the young people, please comment on this blog post (scroll to bottom of page) and we can pass on your comments to Carvajal.

To see more photos from the exhibition see our album on Flickr or add us on Facebook. For updates about our work and future events sign up to our mailing list or simply visit the events page on our website!

Thanks for reading!
Children of the Andes

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