The Art of Disability: An Interview with Sharan Budhrani, Artist at Mawaheb.

About the Author: Wafa Waheed is currently completing her bachelors degree in marketing from Curtin University. She has recently transferred from the Australia campus, and is enjoying her time exploring the UAE. She is an entrepreneur and a marketer, with her own beauty line.


Sharan Budhrani suffers from a medical condition termed as muscular dystrophy, a degenerative neuromuscular disease that has no known cure to date due to which he is confined to a wheelchair. Budhrani is an expressive artist at Mawaheb, an art studio based in Dubai for people of determination. Wafa Waheed, Business School Representative in Curtin University Dubai’s Student Council interviewed Sharan to discover and gain inspiration from his life’s journey as a passionate artist and to bring light to his amazing story filled with determination, passion, and wisdom. This interview with Sharan was conducted and condensed by Wafa Waheed.

What were your early years like?

I was born in Dubai in 1991 and was healthy at birth. However, at the age of 9, I had difficulty walking and hence, was diagnosed with the physical disability, muscular dystrophy. This diagnosis had been extremely tough on me and my family, but we realized that the best way to fight these tough times is through acceptance.  I had phenomenal support from my parents and friends. They were a source of encouragement as well as hope for me during my toughest time.

Were you always interested in becoming an artist, or did some other profession ever appeal to you?

I have been involved in my family business for a while now, but I discovered my art skills at Mawaheb. I have been a part of Mawaheb since February 2011. However, my first experience with painting itself was while I was in the 12th grade, being homeschooled due to my disability. I just picked up a paintbrush and a canvas and begin expressing myself. I originally wanted to be an architect, but could not pursue it due to the long hours of standing required. Nevertheless, Mawaheb provided me with an opportunity to fulfill my new dream of becoming an artist.

Could you shed some light over the support Mawaheb offers to people of determination and inspiring artists?

Mawaheb is located in the culturally rich Al Fahidhi neighborhood. It is an art studio and café specifically designed for determined adults to reach their highest potential through art, music, and to also help them develop necessary life skills regardless of their disability. We have certified trainers and artists that coach students. Most of the students are now currently working full time as artists. Mawaheb is a great platform for all of us, as it has helped most of us to pursue our passion and enjoy life.

What form of art do you personally like? Are you more interested towards abstract, or do you carve a specific imagery that you’re influenced by?

A few years ago, one of my trainers came up with an idea of using remote control cars as a tool to create large pieces of art. I always wanted to create large pieces of work but due to my limitations, was unable to do so. However, due to the support of my trainer, I was lucky to be the only solo artist at the Sikka Art Festival to be able to exhibit my large-sized action painting. I use remote-controlled cars, wooden spoons, sieves, threads, stick, and ropes to apply paint on my canvas. I love painting galaxies and stars, and I always feel like creating something out of this world.  I work with a group of volunteers and try to create mosaics, sculptures, and various paintings. My inspiration also comes from an action artist, Jackson Pollack, and I try to re-create similar kinds of work but in my own style.

How do you overcome tough moments in life? Do you use art as an expression to convey any pain?

My diagnosis has been the hardest on me, as it was really hard for me to use a wheelchair. I had to push myself a lot for this.  However, I learned that the best way to cope with tough situations is through acceptance. It was not easy for us to accept the situation, but I realized I would come out even stronger if I accepted the situation. Over time, I started working on acknowledging all the other blessings life has offered.

Have you ever considered connecting art and entrepreneurship? And how far has your family acknowledged your art?

I belong from an entrepreneurial family, and our family line of work is very different from art. However, since last year, I have been trying to connect with various leaders and entrepreneurs that would like to see my life demonstrations. So who knows, this may lead to something exciting. At home, over 150 of my paintings are displayed on the walls. This is definitely my family’s way of displaying their love, support, and acknowledgment towards me and my skill.

Do you think that the Dubai government and RTA are considerate and accommodating towards people of determination? Are there any changes that you would like to see in Dubai?

Back in 2016, I had expressed my concerns with regard to accessibility to the RTA. They were very positive and instantly responded back to me, and very ready to implement necessary plans in order to facilitate individuals that require wheelchair access. Dubai as am Emirate itself is very accommodating towards people of determination and so is our government here.  Our suggestions are highly valued not only by the government officials but also by the local community. I would definitely suggest having an increased provision of wheelchairs as I think this would be a great addition in the social setting.

What would your message be to young millennials?

My message to young millennials would be to not rely on only social media to showcase their worth. We all need to discover and learn from our experiences and everyday life. We need to be able to differentiate between what’s right or wrong for us. That’s how we would be able to build upon our self – worth.

The story of Sharan is an inspiration and a guide for us to believe in ourselves no matter how tough life and situations around us can be. This interview has been edited for space and clarity. We have also featured some of the amazing paintings created by him.