An acrylic on canvas done by a special needs artists that is up for sale on Empower U. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Thanks to four Dubai students, differently abled artists from all over the world now have a unique platform to promote their art works.

Sixteen-year-old Dev Vohra told Gulf News that he developed the online platform, Empower U, with three of his childhood friends Jaiditya Malik, Zahaan Anand and Akshaj Harihar, all of whom were keen to make a difference to people of determination.

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He said he had earlier been volunteering with the Al Noor Training Centre for Persons with Disabilities in Dubai, when he met a student named Srishti and her teacher-mother.

Dubai students Dev Vohra, extreme right, and his friends Jaiditya Malik, Zahaan Anand and Akshaj Harihar are out to make a difference to artists of determination. Image Credit: Supplied

“Through multiple interactions with Srishti, who is non-verbal, I realised that art was not only her primary mode of communication but also a profound medium for us to connect and for her to express her feelings. Despite being only about nine years old, Srishti’s artwork was remarkably mature, vividly capturing her life experiences and worldview,” he said.

Motivated to help Srishti share her story, Vohra launched Srishti’s Tokens, an online NFT platform to promote her art. “The website quickly attracted attention from a lot of organisations and we partnered with United Voice, a self-advocacy society for persons with learning disabilities based in Malaysia. This collaboration introduced artwork from their 10 artists on our platform, leading to the inception of Empower U and setting the stage for numerous future partnerships,” said Vohra who oversees the platform’s operations.

Anand, who looks after the outreach function, said, “We turned the idea into reality through regular brainstorming meetings, engaging with NGO leaders, and forming partnerships for artwork access. We focused on practical strategies, ensuring the platform showcased underprivileged artists effectively.”

Malik, who caters to the logistics,let on that several challenges arose during the process, but they have been able to overcome them. “These included logistical hurdles in coordinating with NGOs and artists worldwide, technical complexities in developing the platform, and financial constraints in sustaining the project. Additionally, ensuring fair compensation for artists while keeping the platform financially viable was initially an issue too.”

The platform, which currently features 10 of United Voice’s artists, provides their profiles and lists their works, whose prices start from Dh95.

The foursome behind the initiative clarified that they do not take any share of the profits. “As our platform is a non profit, we aim to maximise what best we can do for our artists. So we take no share of the transaction and we onlymediate between the artists and the buyers. This ensures that the buyers have smooth communication and easy transactions to purchase an artwork and that the artists still retain maximum possible profits,” said Harihar, who is in charge of marketing.