Celebrating art created by persons with disability


The first edition of the ‘Discovering Ability’ Art Awards took place on Monday 4 November 2019 at the UNESCO Auditorium in New Delhi. Not Just Art, a start-up of Youth4Jobs Foundation, partnered with the UNESCO New Delhi Office and HSBC to introduce ‘Discovering Ability’, a new platform for awarding works of visual art created by persons with disability.

The ‘Discovering Ability’ Art Awards aim to celebrate the artistic abilities of persons with disability, who have hitherto remained a largely unrecognized talent pool.

The Awards team received over 130 submissions from more than 15 states across India in a single month. A panel of three eminent judges from the Department of Fine Arts, Sarojini Naidu College of Arts and Communication, Hyderabad reviewed the submissions and selected the seven winners. Each winner received a cash prize of Rs 50,000, a trophy and a certificate.

The awards were presented by Shri G Kishan Reddy, Honourable Minister of State for Home Affairs, Government of India. The award-winning art works were exhibited at UNESCO for three days (4–6 November 2019).

Also present at the event were Ms Meera Shenoy, Founder and CEO of Youth4Jobs and Not Just Art; Mr Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka; Mr Paul Raddon, Head of Operations, HSBC Global Service Centres; and Mr Adwaita Gadanayak, Director-General, National Gallery of Modern Art.

The winners of the Art Awards were:

  • Amrit Khurana from Noida, Uttar Pradesh
  • Durgesh Kumar Rathore from Vadodara, Gujarat
  • Mallika Khaneja from Panchkula, Haryana
  • Mohammed Yasar from Palakkad, Kerala
  • Niral Hareshbhai Swati from Vadodara, Gujarat
  • Rohit Anand from Bengaluru, Karnataka
  • Y. Raghavendran from Chennai, Tamil Nadu

In addition, the jury identified 15 other artists whose work merited a special mention.

Not Just Art (NJA) is a startup of Youth4Jobs (Y4J), the largest foundation in the space of including persons with disabilities at the workplace. As Ms Meera Shenoy, Founder of Y4J and NJA said: ‘We wanted to put the spotlight on the unique talents of these artists who, despite their constraints have the incredible ability to use art to express their thoughts and feelings and life experiences. In the last seven years, Y4J has successfully trained and linked youth with disability to jobs across India at scale. We hope that our partnership with UNESCO and HSBC will help us make a similar impact in the space of art by persons with disabilities.’

Our aim is to have 3% of our workforce represented by people with disability by 2020, and Youth4Jobs are one of our strongest partners in this journey. They are our recruitment partner for not only helping us hire talented people with disability, but we also work closely with them to make our workplace accessible to them. A number of our colleagues volunteer with them to help people with disabilities improve their employability skills. ‘Discovering Ability’ is another step forward in our collaboration towards the inclusion of persons with disabilities at the workplace and in the communities in which we operate,’ said Mr Paul Raddon, Head of Operations, HSBC Global Service Centres.

Enabling the participation of persons with disabilities in artistic and cultural life is a key priority for UNESCO. Our collaboration with Youth4Jobs and HSBC to launch the ‘Discovering Ability’ Art Awards builds on our portfolio of disability-focused interventions in India. This includes partnerships with leading cultural institutions to build accessible art galleries; using film to advocate for disability rights; promoting inclusive education for children with disabilities; and helping make libraries and archives disability-friendly. ‘Discovering Ability’ is an important initiative, and signals our commitment to empower persons with disabilities to become both mainstream consumers and producers of art forms.

Eric Falt, UNESCO New Delhi Director