How ongoing support allows Luke Abdallah to focus on his art
Award-winning artist Luke Abdallah was born blind. As Luke has complex needs, his journey to receiving adequate and qualified care has been long – and bumpy.
After an “abysmal” experience with other service providers with carers who were not well-trained, mum Jill and Luke found Afea.
“Everything just swung into action really quickly,” Jill shares. They also love Afea’s multicultural team, with our diverse backgrounds and many accents (“you have music in your voice”).
With ongoing support, Luke is able to focus on his art. His unique art practice includes using his walking cane as a paintbrush, which he demonstrates for us in this interview!
Watch now or keep reading to learn more about Luke.
“Luke was in one of the earliest pilot groups that were trialled way before the NDIS became official,” his mother, Jill, shares with us. “Once Lukie started his NDIS journey, we looked for different programs that would suit him. He actually had a hard time after he left school when he didn’t want to engage with anybody, and we had to very carefully step out into the world.”
Jill described their experience with other service providers as “abysmal”. “We couldn’t find anybody, because we lived not in the centre of a city, so it was impossible. Then later on we tried some local service providers. They were not well-trained, Luke was very nervous of them, so we sort of left that for a very long time.”
She knew they needed someone “more highly qualified, was disability trained, wasn’t nervous to take on people with different needs and slightly more complex needs.”
That’s when she found Afea, which she discovered while she was in Parramatta for a meeting with the NDIS. “I contacted your organisation, and everything just swung into action really quickly. And I was like, ‘This is amazing. Such a professional organisation.’”
Jill and Luke also love our multicultural team. “We found that your organisation had a wide range of people with different accents, which Luke loves. If you speak with a different accent and you have music in your voice, he finds that very interesting.
“Then they also bring their different cultural experiences to Luke, so they can share their music or we talk about the food of their culture or their customs. That’s been adding a lot of complexity to Luke’s life, which he’s thoroughly enjoyed.”
Luke works with therapists and support workers to develop vital life skills.
One of the life skills that he has been practicing with his Afea carers is pouring. “You can imagine, for a totally blind person to pour is not easy. We’re trying to train Luke to pour a beer in his glass in the pub!”
Luke’s Typical Day
A typical day for Luke begins with his carer waking him up. “No light perception,” Jill explains. This means he doesn’t see any light at all, which is the case for people with total blindness.
His carer assists him with personal care: shower, washing his face, brushing his teeth, fixing his hair.
“Then from there we have to do the breakfast thing, all that involves skill building. We have to learn how to butter toast, which is also like using an art palette knife, or the same technique as painting, which is his absolute passion.”
The rest of Luke’s day is filled with music and art therapy.
How did he get started with his art?
Becoming An Artist
Jill holds up Luke’s very first artwork, a small white board with multicoloured wax sticks.
“When he left school, he pretty much had an implosion,” Jill shares. “He was so anxious. He wouldn’t go outside, he wouldn’t do anything.
“So, we were at home doing nothing, and I said to him, maybe we should start doing some crafts, something a bit interesting. I found these things, these wax sticks. Let’s see what we can do with these.”
Jill said she had never seen Luke so engaged and absorbed as when he began working with the wax sticks. That’s when she realised that art was going to help Luke engage with the world.
Luke has been working with artist Zachariah Fenn, who is an art facilitator at Studio ARTES.
Studio ARTES provides support to adults living with disability through creative arts and life skill programs.
Luke’s Unique ‘Cane Paintings’
“I would describe Luke’s art as being abstract primarily,” Zac explains. “His experience of painting is not trying to replicate or recreate a scene from everyday life. It’s all about using colour to express himself. Colour and paint strokes and texture and gestures with his paintbrushes.”
Luke has a unique painting style, as he uses his walking cane in his art practice. “He’ll use it like a paintbrush to do large-scale paintings on the floor,” says Zac.
Working Towards Independence with Afea
“Somehow Luke went off like a rocket in his art and music fields,” Jill says. “So, I’m the one that’s behind going, ‘Okay, I’ll just do what you need’.”
She shares that their practical goals in Luke’s plan is working towards independence. “That’s where the Afea staff come into play.”
Our thanks to Jill, Zac and Catherine for their assistance with this interview.
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