By Tommy Hari Firmanda, Advokat, Konselor, Peneliti, PSLD UB, AIDRAN

09 August 2021 - 10:55

A photo of Faisal Rusdi wearing a black shirt sitting in the middle of two paintings.
Image Description: A photo of Faisal Rusdi wearing a black shirt sitting in the middle of two paintings.  ©

Doc. by Faisal Rusdi

Everyone needs to have the skills to live their lives independently. It is a turning point in an individual's life to realize that they have reached their opportunity; the ability to push back the original or see the limits to meet challenges is the foundation of the transition to adulthood.

Living independently is more than a life's choice.

An individual with a disability is like any other individual when it comes to scrutinizing their own choices, the most significant of which is, "How can I live a fulfilling and independent life? How can I, in my condition, participate and contribute to others?"

Regardless of whether it is doing it for oneself completely, or using assistance when needed, there are various ways a person with a disability can achieve goals such as education, employment, family, or travel. It just requires privileges that are upheld by family and society. However, people do underestimate disabled individuals due to their disability.

Faisal Rusdi, an Indonesian disabled artist, has changed people's perception of people with disabilities. As a person with Cerebral Palsy, his life has never been so difficult. Although he has facing barriers since early ages, he never gave up to reach his dream as well as his independence. 

Faisal was born in Bandung, West Java Indonesia on November 2, 1974. He was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy soon after his parent noticed his gross motor developmental delay at age of 6 months. This condition has affected his ability to move his hands and legs normally and put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Years after tried to cured dan rehabilitated through physiotherapy, in 1983, Faisal attended his first formal special school at SLB D Bandung and graduated from this school in the early 90s. During his time in this school, he was able to follow the academic process, but he was suggested to only focus on his non-academic skills. Categorized as severe disability, his teacher also said that he will only become a burden for others if he could not be able to be independent, which has dropped his motivation and confidence down.

Do not have other options to continue his study, Faisal decided to improve his talent in arts by joining a painting studio owned by a prominent realistic painting artist, Barli Sasmitawinata. After two years, he was suggested to join an international organization called the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (AMFPA). He also met one member of AMFPA who lives in Bandung to examine his eligibility. However, because he still used his left hand to paint, he was not able to join the organization. Faisal started to enhancing his painting technique using his mouth and held his first art gallery in 1998. With his artworks, he re-apply to AMFPA and he successfully became a member in September 2002.

Faisal becomes more confident when he met his role model, a disability activist from Japan, who has opened his mind by adopting his Independent Living philosophy. In 2003, Faisal led the Bandung Independent Living Center (BILIC) and established the Jakarta Barrier-Free Tourism (JBFT) in 2012, to promote the  disability rights, accessibility, public awareness, media, and policy implementation. He also becomes a disability rights activist, who commits moving public campaign on accessibility and actively provide feedback to the government and relevant stakeholders.

In 2017, Faisal was also successfully held his art exhibition in Adelaide, Australia, as his first international debut. He was created more than 20 paintings and several of them were also successfully auctioned and highly appreciated by visitors. Besides arts, he and his wife also enjoyed their time in Australia by traveling to many places and involved in many international disability activities in the local community.

In his opinion, Faisal believed that disability painting arts in Indonesia have shown a significant improvement. Yet, barriers and challenges do exist until today. Artists do not have a proper place to display their artwork or sell it to the public. Indeed, many art exhibitions are not accessible and the negative attitude of the management towards people with disabilities which not support them to show their artworks. As a result, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of disabled artists have dramatically decreased their income. Faisal did advocacy to give access to disabled artists to get their access rights and help his community by holding an online collaborative exhibition with other disabled artists and other AMFPA members. This actions have made some of his friends survive during the pandemic.

Faisal intends to encourage other people with disabilities to keep creative, innovative, and productive in producing quality artworks. With art, Faisal really can show that he can independently living in society and even can help others. Disability is not a barrier but an unsupported environment is. In the future, he also hopes to be able to hold another exhibition, both local or international.