Okapi is a genetic wonder that seems to be something out of a fairy tale. With an incredible appearance in tropical forests, which seem to defy the conventions of the animal kingdom, it combines the grace of a giraffe with the eccentricity of a zebra, with its shiny coat in shades of brown and white. Due to its rarity and genetic uniqueness, okapi, an apparent anomaly, hides beauty and diversity that deserve to be appreciated and celebrated. Autism, disabilities, all these differences are like the shades on the fur of an okapi. They do not diminish the value of the being but add depth and complexity to its portrait. In our world, every okapi is a living masterpiece, a testament to the diversity and strength of the human spirit.
The work with the okapi animals was carried out by P, an 18-year-old young man passionate about drawing. P has a diagnosis of atypical autism and attention deficit disorder. He attended art therapy workshops where he could express his passion for drawing and explore his favorite subjects. To celebrate these children, these wonders of diversity, the Entuziart Art Therapy Association brought together, in the OKAPI Psychopathological Art Exhibition, works made by children aged 9 to 19 who participated in weekly art therapy through painting sessions held by the association at the Special Professional School “St. Nicholas” in Bucharest, through art therapist and psychotherapist analyst Oana Dorneanu. The Entuziart Association has been collaborating with these children since 2022, providing them with support through psychotherapy and creative therapies such as art therapy, dance therapy, music, and photography. Art therapy is an essential resource in working with children with disabilities, providing them with means of communication and expression that can exceed verbal limits. In the workshop, children have creative freedom, working without specific themes and following their interests and curiosities.
Through art, children with intellectual disabilities or autism can find a way of expression, discovering their artistic potential and creative abilities. This discovery can be beneficial for their emotional, social, and cognitive development, giving them a way to express themselves and develop their identity and self-confidence. Through art, children have the opportunity to discover their inner experiences, complex emotions, and hidden feelings, thus creating a bridge between their inner and outer worlds.
Art therapy is an environment in which these children can find the necessary expression to express and explore their emotions and thoughts, contributing to their personal and psychological development. Children with intellectual disabilities may have weaknesses, such as the inability to manage emotions and the lack of self-confidence. By painting and displaying their works in exhibitions, these children shape a self-identity and get a chance at better social and professional insertion. The OKAPI exhibition was born within the Outsider Amnio Art project, developed by the Entuziart Association and co-financed by The Administration of the National Cultural Fund. The works were exhibited for the first time since June 1, 2023, in the Mobius Gallery in Bucharest and subsequently in Timisoara and Lugoj as part of cultural initiatives. In the Art IN/SANE project, the works of children participating in OKAPI art therapy bring a special area of interest and depth, talking with maximum intensity and imagination about their particular world, which we need to approach with great care. Art proves once again to be an effective and beautiful way to understand children and make their future and ours easier and more beautiful. Art critic Dr. Marius Tiţa, a specialist in art brut and outsider art, believes that the OKAPI project is the magic formula, essence and philosophy expressed in one word. “It would be no wonder that this name, outlined by the children participating in the project and by the organizers, should prevail to make a beautiful career. Girafo-zebra of strange beauty, came out of the real jungle in which she lives and stepped on the urban asphalt to talk about children who express themselves in the language of art, who draw their emotions and special observations. Visual arts enter the field and become an active factor in therapy, we all win, no one is left behind and no one is forgotten. And the world is getting more beautiful and colorful.”
The Entuziart Association is a non-governmental organization founded by psychotherapists whose mission is to promote and support people of all ages and abilities through art therapy, dance therapy, psychotherapy, and creative activities for therapeutic purposes. Oana Dorneanu, co-founder of The Entuziart Association, a Jungian psychotherapist with dual specialization in art therapy, studied art brut and psychopathological art in the Art Therapy training conducted in Paris by the “Center for the study of emotions”, training that took place at the Saint Anne Psychiatric Hospital.