Zara with a group of young female singers © Zarifa Mgoyan

UNESCO Artist for Peace and Emeritus of the Russian Federation, pop singer and actress Zarifa Mgoyan, known as Zara, has a long-standing commitment to charities and programmes helping people with disabilities. Her main goal is to involve children with disabilities (those, who are visually impaired and hard of hearing) in artistic activities and to raise awareness of the difficulties they encounter.

As part of this year’s Disability Day Programme, which was also honoured by the Gift of Life founder, acress Chulpan Khamatova,  Zara performed live in Paris. together with artists with disabilities. Accompanied by Yulia Samoylova, Valentin Tkachenko and the ensemble ‘Singing Hands’, she sang the repertoire of beautiful songs about love and friendship in French, Serbian, English, Russian and sign language. Our correspondent Zoé Isle de Beauchaine visited the event with the help of the Russianday, and presented her first-hand accound of the event. 

On the evening of December 4, Russian singer Zarifa Mgoyan (Zara) gave a performance at the Maison de l’UNESCO in Paris, in celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which takes place annually since 1992. This year’s theme was “Transformation Towards Sustainable and Resilient Societies for All” with a focus on the inclusion of people with disabilities through artistic activities.

 

Designated UNESCO Artist for Peace last year, Zara is highly committed to the support of adults and children with disabilities in Russia and to the promotion of their education. She is involved in various charities and programs, such as ‘Step Towards’, which provides assistance to disabled people and raises awareness on the difficulties they face. She is also involved with the Foundation ‘By Call of Heart’ whose aim is to improve the inclusion of children who are visually impaired and hard of hearing in creative activities. Last year she organized an International Festival of Ethnic Music in the Russian Federation in Moscow to support disability issues.

 

Honored Artist of the Russian Federation, Zara is a well-known pop singer in Russia. A graduate of the Saint Petersburg Academy of Theatre Arts, she was honored with several national music awards and won many TV prizes such as The Morning Star, Hopes of Siberia, The Hit of the Year and The Star Factory-6, an equivalent to American Idol.

 

Last night, Zara performed a repertoire of songs about love and friendship in various languages ranging from French and Russian to English, Serbian and Spanish. She was accompanied by artists with disabilities, each more talented than the last. She started with the ensemble ‘The Singing Hands’ who performed with her in sign languages. She was also joined on stage by well-known singers Yulia Samoylova, who lost function of her legs at an early age due to spinal muscular atrophy, and Valentin Tkachenko with whom she performed a splendid Italian opera piece.

 

The highlight of the evening came with the performance of 14-year-old Daniel Pluzhnikov who stunned the crowd with an incredible voice, as strong as his personality. Affected with several health problems linked to his height, 98 inches, he had already moved the entire country in 2016 when he won The Voice.

 

The concert was preceded by an afternoon of reflection on the role of inclusive arts in the complete integration of people with disabilities as main actors of our society. It follows the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which promotes the recognition of the right of persons with disabilities to develop their creative potential. The half-day event included a round-table with speakers from different backgrounds, a sign language master class as well as theatrical performance of In Touch by the Inclusion Theatre Company and the Theatre of Nations. Through spoken, signed and physical theatre, the show told the real stories of deaf-blind, blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard-of-hearing, sighted and hearing people and the emotional charge linked to their everyday life.

 

The event was supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, Inclusion Arts Centre, Zarifa Mgoyan in cooperation with Russian, French and British foundations such as the Connection Deaf-Blind Support Foundation, the Interprofessional Alliance for Vision Protection, the Museum of Russian Impressionism, the Russian Art Science and Sport Foundation, Accès Culture, the Centre Recherche Théâtre Handicap and others.