In that vein, I often describe my experiences of living with two sisters with special needs in comics. It’s not “happy and colorful,” but my candid depictions of our daily encounters are well received as it highlights frustrating, unpredictable situations.
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR SISTERS?
I have three younger sisters and two of them have special needs: Sheila, 26, has global developmental delay and Aisha, 21, has autism. Together with Dianna, who is 28, my sisters are my world.
Sheila and Aisha inspire me to see the world differently and to challenge my ideas of what ‘normal’ can be. It’s thinking outside the box, right?
Growing up with their different behavioral traits also means that unpredictability is a big theme in my family. We learn to roll with the punches.
For example, Aisha doesn’t like loud noises and when it gets overwhelming, she sometimes reacts with tantrums or a meltdown. So if there is construction going on nearby and it gets noisy, the rest of us pretend the drill noise is music and dance to it and invite Aisha to join in instead of fearing the noise.
When Sheila graduated from the school system at the age of 18, we were concerned that she would get bored spending her adult life at home because there weren’t many programs that could support her after school. However, she surprised us by making us feel very much at home – a master of the art of relaxing.
She spends every day chilling on the balcony, watching the world go by. Bonus if it rains. She’s happy and doesn’t seem to mind at all. She teaches us how to take it easy. Unpredictability can also be surprising in a good way.
IS THERE A PROJECT YOU’RE MOST PROUD OF YET?
Hullabaloo (2018) on The Artground is one I hold dear. It was my first time posting an installation on that scale, and while I didn’t consider it a technical masterpiece, it was an experience that was new and personal to me.
I wanted to make a rainbow themed playground inspired by my sister Aisha. People with autism like routine, so Aisha tends to be fixated on certain things for a period of time. She was obsessed with rainbows for a whole year.
She likes to draw and she drew rainbows every day. But not your usual semicircles. She dreamed zigzag rainbows, twisting rainbows, inverted rainbows, rainbow smiley faces, rainbow everything!
Rainbow pratas, rainbow pants, rainbow sailboats… discovering a new ‘rainbow’ creation every day made me laugh, and I thought they were an inspiring example of what creativity really is: no limits. An everyday thing became magical. I wanted people to know how brilliant she was, an artist in her own right.
When The Artground approached me for a collaboration in 2018, I jumped at the chance to capture Aisha’s rainbow hug in a space that people can enter – kind of like walking into her world and seeing how she sees things.