Abu Dhabi: When faced with a stash of colour pencils, a group of fifth graders and their art teacher decided to do something meaningful: they created a portrait of the UAE’s founding father.

His smiling, benevolent face now greets visitors to the Abu Dhabi Indian School, and the project itself aligns closely with Shaikh Zayed’s emphasis on recycling and sustainability.

“I have used newspapers to make pencil stands in the past because I have been taught that recycling is important for our planet. But I truly enjoyed this project because it involved an image of the UAE’s founding father, who is a model of compassion and humanitarian values,” Alfio Joseph Pious, 11, a student from India, told Gulf News.

His classmate, Mohammad Rihan, was equally enthused.

“I enjoy artwork, but marking the Year of Zayed in 2018 with this project also taught me a lot about Shaikh Zayed,” he said.

The project, a brainchild of art teacher, Rupali Sameerkirtani, was completed over four to five hours last month (December 2018). It yielded two portraits, one of which hangs at the private school’s reception and another at one of the other school buildings. Both feature Shaikh Zayed’s profile, constructed with colour pencils, and his facial features crafted with glossy pages of the Friday magazine.

“I have always enjoyed reusing and repurposing the various materials at our disposal in the UAE, and I wanted to do something innovative with these colour pencils. I had these pencils from when students participated in making the world’s largest flag with colour pencils in 2014, and I wanted to make something lasting,” Sameerkirtani said.

The teacher of 11 years then set about creating the portraits with her students for the National Day. Pious and Rihan were joined by Ahad Sulfikar, Fizan Zakariya, Bhagat Suresh, Ahad Shaik, Jeffery Jacob, Hazah Rehiman, Aldric Cutinha and Aakash Alagappan. They mounted a total of 1,200 pencils onto two polystyrene boards, and the avid artists then created a collage of facial features using magazine pages.

“The UAE has long stressed the importance of being environmentally aware, and I am glad that we have been able to create art that honours the country’s visionary leader,” the teacher added.