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Sunday, 27 August 2017 00:00

Unfolding Worlds of Their Own

Written by  Tan Siew Chern, KL & Selangor / Translated by Lee Hui Yieng

Koh Khong Way’s mother, Tan Bee Jin (in grey top), made a vow to donate all the proceeds from the sale of her son’s paintings to TCISKL. [Photograph by Tam Yu Siong]

At the Tzu Chi International School KL (TCISKL) fundraising charity sale, the paintings by Koh Khong Way, a youth with Down syndrome, and the Zentangle drawings by Goh Kai Le, a hyperactive girl, drew the visitors’ attention. They sold their art pieces not for personal profits, but for the school fund.


The painting named “Hidden” portrayed a cropland scenery of pumpkins lying under the verdant leaves. Another painting of tree-lined stream banks felt like a paradise of tranquillity; while another of blooming lotuses in the swamp exemplified purity. As remarked by the visitors, these paintings by Koh Khong Way along the themes of beautiful nature and adorable pets unveiled his purest inner soul.

Twenty-four-year-old Khong Way started painting at the age of seven. He received special and cash awards in the Brian Ayers Memorial Art Exhibition held in Boone, North Carolina, USA, in 2006 and 2008 respectively. Then in 2010, his paintings again won a great prize in the Accu-Chek Global Art Contest.

Recently, when Khong Way was invited to join the “Drawing Down Syndrome Children” exhibition organized by KDU University College, his mother, Tan Bee Jin, suggested to the organizer to put all his paintings on charity sale in support of the TCISKL fundraising. The day before the exhibition, the mother made a wish before a Bodhisattva statue and promised to donate all earnings obtained from the sale of her son’s paintings to TCISKL building fund. To her heart’s content, all four pieces of Khong Way’s paintings were sold, with proceeds equal to the value of a “Lotus Flower” (symbolic of a donation of RM 1,000).

Appreciating the purity of heart

During the TCISKL fundraising charity sale held on August 27, 2017, another 21 pieces of Khong Way’s paintings that were for sale were exhibited near the entrance. He also made drawings on bookmarks on the spot and gave them away as free gifts for the visitors. His mother again made a vow to donate all the proceeds to TCISKL building fund.

After admiring Khong Way’s work on the bookmarks for quite some time, a visitor, Wang Jun Ye chose a few bookmarks and praised, “Your drawings are so vivid and beautiful!” Another visitor, Zeng Yu Qi, who came from Penang, was astonished by what she saw and could not help but to ring up her friend in Sabah to share about it. She also snapped all the paintings with her hand-phone and sent them to the latter.

Her friend then selected three pieces of the paintings and requested her to purchase them on her behalf. She shared that her friend actually set up drawing classes for children with special needs, and these paintings would be used as teaching materials.

Volunteer Chew Siew Leng was deeply touched when she learnt about Khong Way’s story of donating the proceeds from the sale of his paintings. She shared his story with parents in the Parent-Child Bonding Class to evoke their kindness.

Khong Way’s success reminded Siew Leng of the Jing Si Aphorism, “Don’t underestimate yourself for human beings have unlimited potential.” She said, “Khong Way’s mind is free of distractive thoughts, and he paints whatever comes to his mind. I am impressed by his pure nature.” She spent RM400 on the purchase of his paintings and said, “I must support this boy and help achieve his mother’s wish of selling the paintings.” Khong Way’s pure intent to raise funds for the school and Siew Leng’s charitable spirit to realize his mother’s wish are indeed praiseworthy.

Visitor Hong Lai Eng spotted a painting of a string of grapes and bought it for RM320. She planned to frame it and hang it on the wall of her house. She said, “I have looked at these paintings for a long time and I particularly love this piece for its bright colours.” She was surprised to learn that the painter was a boy with Down syndrome.

Lai Eng not only bought the painting in appreciation of the boy’s talent and to support the construction of the TCISKL, but she also fulfilled the mother’s wish.

Expounding the Dharma via paintings

Recalling the time when the child was born and the countless struggles she had endured, Bee Jin said, “I cried for eight whole months. But thinking back now, I believe it is a special affinity.”

For this charity sale, Bee Jin’s greatest wish was to sow seeds of wholesome karma for her child. She said, “Khong Way would never have the chance to attend school like other children his whole life. Even though the money raised might only be enough to buy some roof tiles for the school, my biggest wish is to plant the seeds of wholesome karma for him.”

Inspiring her child to “expound the Dharma via paintings” yield a special meaning. Bee Jin said, “My intention is to improve his relationships with others and create awareness among the public that as long as we treat children with learning disabilities with love, they can still grow like normal kids.” And Khong Way is the best testimony to her words.

What Bee Jin felt most grateful of was that the buyers’ love has boosted the child’s confidence. She shared that both of them often felt lonely in past exhibitions, but at Tzu Chi’s charity sale, the child was showered with encouragement, company and support from volunteers, resulting in the successful sale of 12 paintings.

When asked whether he felt tired after drawing on the bookmarks for half a day, Khong Way replied shyly, “Not tired, I am very happy.” And when asked for the reasons, he said, “I want to give myself a chance to do kind deeds. Mum taught me that the money we earn will be used to help others.” His genuineness was evident in his brief and direct answers.

Speaking of his drawing teacher and benefactor, Khong Way said, “My teacher is a professional instructor, but that is not possible for me. I wish to be a professional painter.”

A chance to sow blessings

Like Khong Way, another girl, Goh Kai Le, who was once labelled a “hyperactive kid”, was all focused in her drawing, disregarding the passers-by. On the small white cards were black lines in structured patterns, or cute animal cartoons, which she drew freely, showing her vast imaginations.

Kai Le’s mother, Tiew Joo Hua, had been through some rough times due to her hyperactivity. It was tough as Joo Hua was unable to control the daughter, hence was afraid to bring her out. However, Kai Le had several years of sensory integration training, and also learnt about Zentangle drawing. On this day, she attracted some curious visitors, who commended her artistic talent and delicate mind as she worked on her favourite Zentangle art on the spot. Ninety cards, priced between RM5 and RM10, were sold.

Drawing was Kai Le’s childhood dream. Her interest was nurtured in Zentangle art and through it, she discovered herself. Thirteen-year-old Kai Le said, “Drawings in comic books and on Web pages have led to a lot of room for imagination. I transform my imaginations into dreams, and eventually, illustrate them through drawings.” Kai Le emphasized, “I want my drawings to bring happiness to others.”

Initially, Kai Le’s father, Goh Chee Tiong, could not accept the fact that his kid was not normal. When Kai Le was in Primary 1, he saw a little hope as he discovered that she did particularly well in languages. After she was sent to a special school, he found out that she was interested in drawing. So, he registered her for the Zentangle course offered by Tzu Chi Continuing Education Centre, and that brought unexpected results.

Volunteer Ma Lay Hwa, who has always taken interest in gardening, was amazed by Kai Le’s drawings and how she has transformed from an excessively active kid to one who could sit still. After purchasing a few cards as decorations for her office, she said, “Putting together these drawings above some potted plants will definitely derive a ‘wow’ factor from my colleagues.” With this scene in mind, she planned to promote Kai Le’s drawing cards to her colleagues and help to open up new market opportunities for her.

Kai Le was a bit reluctant to sell her drawings but her parents persuaded her by saying, “The funds raised will be used to build Tzu Chi School and this can help many children in education.” Kai Le agreed after some moments of thoughts. Chee Tiong said, “I give her a chance to sow blessings.”

Both Khong Way and Kai Le have walked into the world of painting and unfolded worlds of their own. Khong Way has won several awards in exhibitions, while Kai Le is able to enjoy stillness in drawing, and works on her dreams. Their transformations and achievements have made their mothers proud.

 

 

Koh Khong Way (in black top) focused on his drawing on the bookmarks and gave them away as gifts to create good affinities with others. [Photograph by Chan Tuck Meng]   The drawing named “Hidden” has a cropland scenery of several pumpkins lying under verdant leaves, revealing the purity of Koh Khong Way’s heart. [Photograph by Chew Chin Wah]

Koh Khong Way (in black top) focused on his drawing on the bookmarks and gave them away as gifts to create good affinities with others. [Photograph by Chan Tuck Meng]
 
The drawing named “Hidden” has a cropland scenery of several pumpkins lying under verdant leaves, revealing the purity of Koh Khong Way’s heart. [Photograph by Chew Chin Wah]
 
Koh Khong Way’s success in drawing reminded Chew Siew Leng (right) of the Jing Si Aphorism, “Don’t underestimate yourself for human beings have unlimited potential.” [Photograph by How Siew Heok]   Hong Lai Eng was attracted to KohKhong Way’s painting of a string of grapes. Not only did she buy it in appreciation of Khong Way’s talent and to support the construction of TCISKL, but she also fulfilled his mother’s wish. [Photograph by Khor Kok Chin]

Koh Khong Way’s success in drawing reminded Chew Siew Leng (right) of the Jing Si Aphorism, “Don’t underestimate yourself for human beings have unlimited potential.” [Photograph by How Siew Heok]
 
 
Hong Lai Eng was attracted to KohKhong Way’s painting of a string of grapes. Not only did she buy it in appreciation of Khong Way’s talent and to support the construction of TCISKL, but she also fulfilled his mother’s wish. [Photograph by Khor Kok Chin]
 
Goh Kai Le (right), who was labelled a “hyperactive kid”, is now able to enjoy stillness in drawing. Her father, Goh Chee Tiong (middle), hoped that she has a chance to sow blessings through the charity sale. [Photograph by How Siew Heok]  

Goh Kai Le (right), who was labelled a “hyperactive kid”, is now able to enjoy stillness in drawing. Her father, Goh Chee Tiong (middle), hoped that she has a chance to sow blessings through the charity sale. [Photograph by How Siew Heok]