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Art from the heart for joy and hope


Since March of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought immense challenges to frontline healthcare workers. They faced burnout and anxiety. The normal day-to-day pressures impacted their mental well-being.

Patients and their families also faced unease and uncertainty during diagnosis, appointments and procedures. As creative as Covid-19 has been in its contagion, so has everyone fought back by demonstrating the value of creative life.

In these exceptional circumstances of bewilderment and uncertainty, art serves as a compass. It helps us find direction and reminds us that there is still solid ground beneath our feet and a steady horizon ahead of us.

Creative practices in art and humanities offer a fantastic, non-medical, but medically relevant way to improve the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities.

“Art is something which channelises your mind and soul and tunes them to rejuvenate your body”, says Dr Benny Panakkal, renowned cardiologist in Muscat, who has an exciting artistic level as seen in his Paintings of inspiration.

As a highly-respected medical practitioner who is fully dedicated to the promotion of heart health, the doctor measuring the heart rhythm says. “I’ve always loved drawing, and have an eye for colour, picking up the paintbrush feels natural to me.

In addition to translating the stunning picturesque beauty of Oman — from the scenic cityscapes to the iconic mountains, the beautiful natural wadis in Wadi Bani Khalid or Wadi Darbat onto the canvas, his paintings in acrylic and are done in both brush and pallet convey the defenceless human beings’ confrontations with the pandemic.

The paintings will be on display at Hotel City Seasons from July 20-30 under the auspices of Bhavalaya, a global platform for promoting and propagating arts.

Indian Ambassador, Amit Narang, will launch the art event. The guests of honour include the well-known Omani artist, Maryam al Zadjali and Tahira al Mawali, Director of the Omani Society for Fine Arts.

Currently working as a senior consultant interventional cardiologist and head of cardiology at Badr Al Samaa Hospital Ruwi, his doodling exercises began much earlier during his childhood days.

“I’ve always enjoyed painting. From a young age, I found drawing and painting immersive and satisfying”, Dr Benny told the ‘Observer’.

His passion for painting made him receive several prizes for his paintings at youth festivals both at district and state level competitions held during youth festivals.

“I think because I’ve always loved drawing and have an eye for colour, picking up the paintbrush feels natural to me”, he says.

Although nature and its beauty were his favourites, he translated the dramatic destruction that the coronavirus played in human lives onto the canvas.

A physician-artist collaboration offers a visual representation of the clinical and ethical magnitude of the pandemic and humanity’s fight for survival.

One of his Covid-19 paintings done during the uncertain period of lockdown in Oman portrays the impending threat of the virus from outside the door where it is dark depicting gloom and doom.

The bright colour inside the room represents a warm atmosphere that represents hope in life.

“The unprecedented changes which developed quickly due to the pandemic, have disrupted and affected everyone’s daily life. There was fear, uncertainty and depression everywhere. But still, there was hope at the end of the tunnel”, says Dr Benny.

Another painting, “Two Faces” represents the two sides of life — death and resurrection.

“Even as thousands were dying and millions were under the clutches of the virus, medical science came with the hope of a vaccine that changed the course of life. I wanted to create artwork to communicate what I was experiencing”, he said pointing to the painting.

During his undergraduate level at the Government Medical College in Kozhikode, in the South Indian state of Kerala, Dr Benny was very active in arts and conducted several exhibitions.

After entering the post-graduate resident training and subsequently clinical and hospital practice, his passion for painting took a backseat and was almost forgotten till the pandemic era.

“All these paintings are the products of coronavirus impact”, he said adding, “I’ve learned there is so much more to making great art, and it’s something I’ll never tire of pursuing”.

While he prefers the weekend eve for putting colours, he said art helps him in so many different ways, both personally and professionally.

“My paintings allow me to grow personally from my experiences by distilling what I have experienced into an understandable format”, Dr Benny said.

In advice, he said that, if possible, everyone should find extra time to channel their other abilities so that they can get away from the extra toxin in their bodies during their jobs.

“If you have a hobby, do pursue it”, he adds.

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