Rubaba Hazara is just 16 years old, but the Afghan girl draws with a maturity beyond her years.
She was born without the use of her arms or legs. Overcoming this disability, in a country still wracked by violence and poverty, hasn’t been easy. For her, drawing became an outlet for her emotions and an escape from her circumstances.
“I was pouring out my emotions, to show my heart was full of pain… I just wanted to pour out my emotions. I didn’t want to suffer any more pain,” Rubaba said. “I’ve languished inside the house for 16 years.”
With her will to find something to deal with the emotions and pain she faced, she picked up a pencil, first in secret.
She would wait till her family was out at an event, that she couldn’t attend because of her disability, and would then take her sister’s pencils.
“The first time I wanted to hold a pencil, I tried it with my foot. I wanted to write something, but I wasn’t able. The same day, I found I could hold it with my mouth,” said Rubaba.
After discovering that she could draw with her mouth she taught herself how to do portraits of people she admired.
One of those people was Afghan-born Maryam Monsef, Canada’s Democratic Institutions Minister. Rubaba called Monsef her idol.
“I really look up to and respect people who take pride in their work, who are patient – who confront and overcome the challenges they face. And I have overcome many difficulties.”
“Rubaba’s story is a reminder of the resilience of the human spirit that even in the most difficult conditions individuals can do great things,” Monsef told Global News. “I am flattered by her attention, and I hope I can serve as a positive role model.”
After finishing her portrait of Monsef, she moved on to drawing a portrait of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and hopes that one day she is able to show the portraits of both Trudeau and Monsef in person in Canada.
“I think this [Rubaba’s story] serves as a reminder to all of us that what’s happening here in Canada is noticed by people all over the world and they’re looking to us for leadership and that is inspiring,” said Monsef.
Although Rubaba won’t be coming to Canada anytime soon to show her work, she continues to draw as an escape from the reality that she can’t be like other 16-year-old girls. For now, she is optimistic that her life is changing. And with her work now getting international recognition, she hopes for a better future outside of the walls she has lived behind her whole life.