If you could use a shot of inspiration and are a person who appreciates art, let me introduce Ayuk Suwarni. Ayuk is an artist whose work bubbles up with exuberant nature and colorful stylized Balinese figures.When you meet Ayuk Suwarni, you’ll notice that her eyes are sparkling with expression just above her long black pigtails and petite body. An artist always paints their inner world, and Ayuk’s world is Happy.
Now , I want to explain why Ayuk inspires me. Not only is her art refreshing and unique, but 27 year old Ayuk cannot talk, walk or use her hands. She has had Cerebral Palsy since she was a baby, and can control only one foot. . Her muscles have failed her, not her brain or her spirit. Ayuk’s inner life is rich and highly intelligent. She developed a rare set of creative skills using her right foot, and oil pastel is her way of self expression. Her spirited art is a blatant contradiction to any message of weakness, for Ayuk is a woman who is compelled to push boundaries. Her artwork transcends her disabilities, as she developed her own ‘artist’s way.’ Her work seems to say, find the joy within yourself.
Ayuk is not only a gifted artist, but a person who exemplifies joy in the face of severe challenges. She has a deep sense of pride as she begins her work in the morning, disciplined to her craft. This is how she does it. Ayuk puts an oil pastel between her big toe and the next and has an small wooden floor easel set up for her to draw and paint on. Using her right foot only, Ayuk can skillfully draw her idea with a black pen and then paint with the oil pastels. This is painful, but she takes her art very seriously. It takes her two full days or so to do one painting. Artists with physical disabilities are rarely seen. Her work is a bridge between her bright inner world and a world of someone disabled. What an example of self- empowerment! To help you understand how exceptional she is, try this experiment. Place a piece of blank paper on the floor and then put a pen between your big toe and the next. Now, try to write your name. See what I mean?
Ayuk is happy for another reason; she is deeply loved by everyone in her Balinese compound. I discovered Ayuk as I was dining one evening at the Savannah Moon Restaurant on Jalan Kajeng in Ubud. It’s a small sweet family run restaurant with fresh flowers, Balinese music and a most interesting menu. The staff at Savannah Moon are so friendly, as I discovered that Pernata, Ayuk’s brother and also an artist owned the restaurant. That evening I looked over in to their families courtyard and saw Ayuk sitting on the porch and was told she was an artist. I said, may I see her work? Out came a stack of large paper paintings for me to file through. Ayuk’s creative expression on paper celebrate life .What her eyes see and her mind paints is her souls experience. It moved me and had to purchase two that night. Later, learning more about Ayuk made her work even more amazing.
It is not words that draw one person to another and my heart connected to Ayuk the moment I met her. Sometimes I go and paint with her and we are able to communicate in ways that always ends in laughter. I know her to be playful and creative and these qualities are linked to spirituality. She is my teacher. We live in our body to experience the world. Ayuk’s physical experience is limited and painful and yet you can see her joyful inner life. As silent as she is, she communicates. Her natural impulse to communicate comes out on simple paper you can buy at the grocery store.
Ayuk’s mother is her main care taker and almost telepathically connected to her needs, although others in her family have learned her unique way of communicating. Her face is full of emotion and her eyes sparkle when she feels understood. She is very much loved there by everyone and enjoys painting her family dressed in beautiful costume and flowers in their hair ready to go to ceremony. They have three adorable miniature Maltese who hang around her all day. Ayuk’s favorite is called Choki and could use some dental work.
Ayuk wants to engage in a larger world. She wanted to dance and see my monkeys, but she doesn’t get out very often. So, if you’re interested in being inspired and would like to meet a woman who has met her challenges with joy and creativity, come see Ayuk. I want to thank all of the family and fine staff at Savannah Moon for loving Ayuk so attentively and offering their friendship to me.
note: this article first publish in Ubud Community printed edition June 2012