By Esraa al Saadi
It is said that creativity is born in the womb of suffering. That well-known adage may not be entirely accurate, but Wafaa al Harthiyah demonstrated its veracity by turning it into a fact.
Wafaa al Harthiyah is a talented artist from Oman who overcame significant challenges brought on by a birth condition thanks to her inspiring individuality and attitude towards life.
Al Harthiyah recalls some of her early years and claims that she suffered from Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome, a rare congenital disorder that results in abnormal bone and soft tissue growth and causes excruciating pain and a weighty sensation.
Doctors had to amputate both of Wafaa’s legs because the disease primarily affected her legs, which swelled up severely and gave her excruciating pain. Due to her medical condition, Wafaa spent a large portion of her childhood being admitted to hospitals. She was occasionally hospitalised for four or five consecutive months. People would stare at her legs and ask why she was different, which hurt Wafaaa a lot as she struggled to tolerate and live with the disease. She claims that the love and support of her mother and family, however, helped her become stronger and better able to handle any unfavourable remarks she might have encountered.
In terms of her academic performance, Wafaa claims that the school turned her down due to her disability. Instead, she joined the Al Wafaa Center, a nonprofit organisation that offers social rehabilitation programmes and care to children with disabilities.
Up until the age of 13, she completed her studies at home with the aid of some educational games and books. Since she had never attended school before, she began studying in third grade. Wafaa’s enthusiasm and dedication to her studies were evident in her grades, as she consistently received the top spot throughout her study years.
When she was in grade 7, she even earned the third place on the Sultanate of Oman level.
Wafaa joined Sultan Qaboos University as a student in the College of Science and declared Statistics as her major. She found that studying at SQU was extremely difficult because switching between classes hurt her physically so much that she had tormented thoughts of giving up. She made the decision to press on regardless of the difficulties, and in 2021 she graduated with honours.
Wafaa uses art as a means of expressing herself emotionally outside the constraints of her disability. When she was young and in the hospital, she started drawing as a form of entertainment for herself. She developed her drawing skills as she matured and rose to prominence in the art and drawing world. Wafaa has taught drawing classes at SQU and in her wilayat, Ibra, numerous times. To expose her talent to a wider audience, she also participated in dozens of art galleries both inside and outside of Oman.
Additionally, she illustrated the covers of many books, including some novels from the Gulf countries as well as the books for a private school. She has won numerous accolades both inside and outside of Oman. She won first place in the Individuals Competition for the Daraish Gallery in the United Arab Emirates, second place in the Advanced Art competition, first place in the Microsoft Imagine Us competition for the best environmental poster, and first place in the Tell a Friend campaign that was started by PDO, among other awards.
A significant aspect of Wafaa’s personality is self-improvement. She constantly strives to not only enhance her existing skills but also learn new ones. For instance, Wafaa, a professional artist, has recently begun to experiment with digital drawing, designing, and photography. She also collaborated on the publication of a paper on Autism spectrum disorder and presented a study on the El Nino phenomenon at the Scientific Festival with some of her colleagues, making some truly remarkable contributions to the academic world.