Artist with Down syndrome delivers uplifting message

When her parents named her Karishma (meaning miracle in Sanskrit), they had no idea how prescient their action would turn out to be.
Karishma, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome just months after her birth, has not just lived up to her name, but delivered miracles of sorts to several others.

The beneficiaries have been children and youth in disadvantaged situations in Vietnam, where she has lived for the last five years after coming here with her parents from India.

Over the last three years, 22-year-old Karishma has become an artist whose paintings have been sold almost instantaneously every time she has held an exhibition – each time to raise funds for helping others.

The latest event at the Sheraton Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, saw all 31 paintings on display sold even before the event began, leaving several attendees ruing the fact that they could not get their hands on one.

So far, over the last three years, the alternatively shy and bold artist has raised 37,500 USD for charitable purposes in Vietnam. She has been able to fund heart and spine surgeries for needy youth and children in Ho Chi Minh City and the central region.

The event, called “Karishma – Colors of Love”, raised roughly 230 million VND (11,000 USD) that was entirely donated to the Ho Chi Minh City and Quang Nam sponsoring associations for orphans and the disabled.

Karishma’s happiness with what she is doing was obvious. She hugged and kissed every body, and danced gracefully as Vietnam’s top saxophonist Tran Manh Tuan, played a tribute along with his young daughter.

“Life is beautiful,” said one person as he watched the performance, and others nearby nodded agreement.

Deepak Mittal, the Consul General of India in Ho Chi Minh City, said: “It is hard to imagine that these works are a creation of someone who has faced tough challenges in life and started to discover this hidden talent only few years ago.”

He hailed Karishma’s artistry and generous heart saying she was an outstanding ambassador for her country, “bringing out the warmth and deep friendship between the people of Vietnam and India.”

One of several poignant moments at the exhibition was the presence of 28-year-old Ly Thi Ngoc Lan, who sat on a wheelchair and watched the proceedings. With Karishma’s help, she had been able to survive a serious backbone problem.

“I come here to see Karishma’s paintings. I feel very happy to seeing her art works. I see generosity in each of her paintings,” Lan said.

Karishma’s ability and talent was found accidentally by a foreign art teacher.

In 2008, soon after arriving in Vietnam, Karishma was sent to the Gia Dinh School for Children with Special Needs in Binh Thanh district. She had to quit the school three months later because of communication problems.

Her parents’ efforts to keep the daughter engaged led to a chance meeting with art teacher Cyndy Beaumont who agreed to help Karishma despite having no previous experience of teaching children with special needs.

Karishma embarked on a miraculous journey as Beaumont worked with her, learning different painting and colouring techniques and understanding the works of famous painters.

Her parents, Kalpana and Hariharan Kannan, were moved and amazed to see their daughter blossom overnight from a restless child to one focusing intently on creating one painting after another, inspired by everything she saw around her.

To take the work of their daughter a step further, the parents have launched an official website at www.karishmakannan.com to share their experiences of taking care a daughter with special needs, and to show others the potential that is there in everyone.

Karishma and her parents have a simple, direct message to impart, which they chose as the title for the previous exhibition of her works: “You can, I can, we can.”.-VNA

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