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October 14, 2006

Deaf Artists in India Revive Lost Art Form

From: VirtualO - Oct 14, 2006


CONTACT: Baba Prasad (Ph.D., The Wharton School)

Phone: 919-338-8164 (days) or 919-357-7752 (evenings)
317 Azalea Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27517

*Deaf Artists in **India** Revive Lost Art Form *

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA (Oct. 12, 2006) –- Deaf artists in India working for a Deaf art organization have rediscovered and revived a lost art form that dates back to the 17^th century. While the art of random marbling is well-known today, it is not known that 400 years ago in south Indian Deccani art, marbling was used in a controlled way to make beautiful paintings. The difficulty of the technique led to its demise, and there are no artists today who are known for using marbling in their art. Over the last few years, however, VirtualO, a small Deaf art company in India, has revived this brilliant art form. The principal artist working in this medium is Khaled Mohammed, whose paintings and greeting card reproductions can be seen on

The marbling technique involves painting on still water and transferring the art on to different media. The difficult technique was used both in 17th Century Deccani art and also in Japanese art 2000 years ago, where it was called Suminagashi. While the ancient traditions used vegetable dyes, Khaled uses oils and acrylics which are more difficult to control. The random spread of paints on the water ensures that a painting can never be replicated.

The ebbs and flows of the paints and the patterns that emerge in marbling reflect the long meditation and the close control of the Deaf artist. These visual patterns question any assumptions we make about the predominance of sound patterns in daily life. Familial scenes (mother and child, conversations, family scenes), natural landscapes, and rural life portraits display senses of belonging and alienation, or sometimes even ambiguity.

VirtualO ( ) is a for-profit philanthropic organization based in Hyderabad, India. It was founded five years ago by a young business school professor, Baba Prasad (Ph.D., The Wharton School), and S. Chandramouli (Mouli), an internationally-ranked Deaf badminton player. VirtualO’s mission is to foster and promote “differently-abled” artists who face tremendous handicaps in life and typically do not blossom into the artists they can be. Dr. Prasad, who lives in the USA, has invested his personal funds to start and run the organization, and now manages the marketing and fundraising. Mouli manages the operations of the organization in Hyderabad, India.

Commenting about VirtualO’s for-profit status, Dr. Prasad says, “We deliberately chose to be a for-profit organization because the acceptance of a non-profit status immediately signals both to the outside world and within our own organization that somehow, because we are differently-talented, we cannot do without governmental support. On the other hand, a for-profit status boosts the confidence of our artists, so that when we succeed, we can truly say that we did so without government doles or external props.”

VirtualO has focused on recognizing Deaf artists in early stages and on helping them develop into full-fledged professional artists. In a unique arrangement, VirtualO provides these artists steady monthly salaries, art supplies, and studio space so that they can pursue their love for art without worrying about livelihood. Profits generated from online sales of original paintings and printed greeting cards are used to develop the firm and help other Deaf artists. For instance, before VirtualO spotted him and offered him employment, Khaled used to be a part time mason and part-time goatherd in a village in west India.

Since its founding, VirtualO has helped more than a dozen artists, some temporary, and some fulltime. When artists reach professional status, VirtualO markets their artworks. Currently, VirtualO is marketing the work of Khaled, whose paintings were displayed in two very well-received exhibitions that VirtualO organized recently. The renowned art historian, Jagdish Mittal, inaugurated the first exhibition in Hyderabad, and His Excellency Shri T.N. Chaturvedi, The Governor of Karnataka, inaugurated the second one in Bangalore.

While the art developed at VirtualO by itself may or may not comment directly on deafness or Deaf culture, depending on the artist’s self-expression, VirtualO sees its mission as simply to foster and promote artists who are socially- and economically-disadvantaged because of their deafness. Its vision is to grow into an organization that extends its support to differently-abled, non-Deaf artists all over the world.

Visit to view Khaled’s powerful and poignant artwork. The site also allows you to purchase original paintings and greeting card reproductions.

To set up interviews about VirtualO, or to request a media kit, contact Dr. Baba Prasad at 919-338-8164 or at .