23 February 2019
Mohammad Moavia suffers from a degenerative muscular disease but that has not stopped him from taking the cudgels for the disabled. Photo: HKEJ
Mohammad Moavia suffers from a degenerative muscular disease but that has not stopped him from taking the cudgels for the disabled. Photo: HKEJ

How a Pakistani teen became a champion of the disabled

Each stroke of the paintbrush, each click on the computer mouse or each scribble on the keypad is a triumph of immense physical proportions for Mohammad Moavia.

There’s more.

Moavia is an artist of the first order, winning his first gold medal for painting at 11 and a merit award in this year’s Hong Kong Youth and Children Illustrated Storybook Competition.

The latter is for a 15-page computer-aided superhero booklet designed to inspire young children with disabilities.

In that sense, Moavia is their champion.

The 17-year-old Pakistani student suffers from muscular dystrophy, a condition that weakens the muscles and hampers movement.

There is no known cure but exercise and medication can help preserve muscle tone.

Moavia is fighting to end discrimination against people with his condition and those with any form of disability.

“No matter what imperfections they have, they want to be able to contribute to society,” he says.

Moavia uses his talent for painting to depict a positive message and credits his teachers for honing it.

Despite his advancing loss of locomotion and hand movement, Moavia is sharp and is a fast learner.

For instance, he picked up Photoshop techniques after a brief sitting with an instructor.

When he learned digital painting, he was able to save time.

It takes minutes to draw an image on a computer compared with hours by freehand. 

He has become so adept with the computer he no longer needs his younger sister to help him pick a color palette or cut and stick color paper on sketchbooks.

Computer-aided painting has given him greater autonomy. 

Moavia was a toddler when he moved to Hong Kong with his parents.

It wasn’t too bad at the beginning of his illness when he could still ride a bike and rough it up with the boys in the schoolyard.

His teachers were impressed.

Tam Wan-wah says Moavia has always been optimistic, obedient and clever.

When he started school at age six, he spoke only Urdu, Pakistan’s national language.

Tam taught him Cantonese and soon, words were rolling off his tongue.

By secondary three, he was so proficient he beat every local student to become first in class in his Chinese language subject.

He is the designated translator of the family.

Moavia has little memory of his home country, so he can’t say if he misses it, but he likes living in Hong Kong.

“Everything here is accessible,” he says.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 15

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Mohammad Moavia says computer-aided painting has given him greater autonomy. Photo: HKEJ

Mohammad Moavia’s award-winning works include Geese (left) in 2010 and a computer-aided superhero booklet in 2016. Photos:, HKEJ

Mohammad Moavia painted this freehand New Year’s greeting card for his teachers. Photo: Hong Kong Red Cross Margaret Trench School

Hong Kong Economic Journal writer

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