Hanoi autistic kid creates head-turning art

Ha Dinh Chi, (aka Nem), hardly speaks. His quiet world is not boring but vibrant, as he has found a passion for brushes and colours.
Hanoi autistic kid creates head-turning art ảnh 1Nem is passionate about drawing and painting (Source: courtesy of Nem's parents)
Hanoi (VNA) - Ha Dinh Chi, (aka Nem), hardly speaks. His quiet world is not boring but vibrant, as he has found a passion for brushes and colours. 

Nem was diagnosed with autism at an early age. For a 13-year old boy, he is small and has very poor language and communication abilities.

“Nem’s paintings speak for him about his feelings for his family and his surroundings,” said Nguyen Lan Phuong, Nem’s mother.

Phuong called it a real mercy when her son found his own method of communication.

One painting, one unique work

Nem has created thousands of paintings depicting such subjects as the universe, cities, schools, family, entertainment and friends, among other topics, said Ha Dinh Long, Nem’s father.

There are about 500 of alphabets, 300 of hospitals, 600 of cinemas, 200 of universes, cities, classrooms, landscapes, cooking, family and portraits, Long said.
The father made joke of the volume of Nem's art works, saying that "they outweigh him."
Long, 46, is an architect. He discovered Nem’s then-curiosity and later-passion for drawing.

“Nem showed his interest in my designing works when he was around three years old, so I started teaching him how to draw simple shapes with a pencil,” Long told Vietnam News Agency.

Noticing how Nem improved emotionally with drawing, his parents decided to send him to art classes. Little did they know they had just unleashed their son’s hidden creativity.
Hanoi autistic kid creates head-turning art ảnh 2Photographer Debbie Rasiel took a photo of Nem's family at the Picturing Autism project (Source: courtesy of Nem's parents)

Nem learnt about colours and shapes so quick that it surprised both his parents and teachers.

“Nem’s paintings are very different even when they feature the same subject,” Nguyen Hang Nga, Nem’s art teacher said.

Sometimes, Nga herself is overwhelmed by the infinite creativity of her student.

Nem has a shocking left-handed drawing speed. “It seems to me he doesn’t need a second to think of what or how to draw whenever he takes the brush,” Nga said.

“We didn’t know our Nem would be so passionate about drawing and painting,” Long said.

He and his wife just hoped that drawing would give him joy and comfort.

Little mind connects to the world

Nem’s paintings have been introduced to the public via numerous exhibitions. The first “A Little World” made headlines nationwide in 2014.

By telling Nem’s story via his paintings, Long and his wife wanted to send a message to the community, particularly their peers that each autistic child is a complete little world, and parents should help connect it with the big world.

“Nem remained naïve and unaffected after the exhibition while our lives changed a bit,” Long said.

Little Nem became a widely known autistic artist. His paintings and the exhibition contributed to changing the public’s view of autism.

“Many people suddenly showed love for our son. Parents of autistic children contacted us to learn from our experience,” Long said, adding that they were invited to numerous international and local autism-related events.

Nem’s paintings were most recently displayed at the “Iuiuiu” (cute) exhibition in Hanoi throughout April.

The event showcased art works of many autistic children as part of activities to observe World Autism Awareness Day of the United Nations (April 2).

Photos of autistic artists at the exhibition (Video: Phuong Vu)
Nguyen Dinh Nguyen, the President of Tohe Social Company - the organiser of the “Iuiuiu” exhibition has a special love for autistic artists.

His company has hosted numerous exhibitions to bring art created by autistic artists to the public nationwide.

“We call them ‘little artists’ no matter how old they are, because autistic people have child-like minds,” Nguyen said.
Hanoi autistic kid creates head-turning art ảnh 3Nguyen Dinh Nguyen, Tohe President and his wife co-found Tohe Social Company. They hold a paper saying 'LIKE!' when talk about autistic artists. (Source: VNA)

Nguyen, a graphic artist, is a big fan of Nem’s paintings.

“Watching Nem drawing, I keep wondering how one can draw without any hesitation and interruption like that,” Nguyen said.

“I feel like images and ideas are endless in Nem’s mind, they just come out through his hand.”

Nem also has an online gallery on Facebook, an account which has thousands of friends and followers. Every post gets hundreds of likes, views and positive comments.

“We treasure every moment and effort of Nem,” Phuong said, adding they set up Nem Gallery as an online diary for Nem.
Let’s dance in the rain

It was painful for his parents when Nem was diagnosed with Turner syndrome (a sex chromosomal abnormality) when he was one year old, and an autism spectrum disorder soon after.

“I’ve chosen not to wait until the rain stops, but learn to dance in the rain and enjoy it,” Phuong said, comparing Nem’s condition with downpours.

Nem grew up with shortages in terms of physical capabilities and behaviour in comparison with other children his age in spite of receiving numerous treatments since his diagnosis.

The parents described their seven-year old son as a bag with holes of different shapes and sizes. They used to try to mend it and felt hopeless during the process.

“Our son seemed to shut himself off from the outside world, including us,” Phuong recalled.
Hanoi autistic kid creates head-turning art ảnh 4Nem calls Phuong, his mother, his BFF (best friend forever. (Source: courtesy of Nem's parents)

Phuong started to join autism-related classes, experience-sharing groups, and consultation sessions, which gradually helped her better connect with Nem.
“I suddenly realised my son is not a holed bag, but a beautiful net bag,” Phuong said, adding they just need to choose the right things to put in the bag.

While the mother thanked the father for discovering Nem’s drawing talents, the father said it was Phuong who has helped Nem make it here with her daily care and patience.

“Somehow, she became wise about autism, in terms of connection and treatment of different methods,” Long said about his wife.

“Our Nem now has much better awareness of the world,” Long said in delight.

Phuong, 43, is a lecturer at the National University of Civil Engineering.

She is on her four-year PhD study in Belgium to learn how to build autism-friendly houses as part of her efforts to care about autism, and Nem’s future.

The parents believe that there is no miracle if no effort is made.-VNA

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