Seeing the world - art helping save children's sight

Artist Tim Benson puts a mirror up to Zambia for Orbis in Mall Galleries exhibition.

Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world, where children are four times as likely to go blind than in developed counties. About 78% of the population lives in proverty, and almost a quarter of a million are blind or visually impaired.

The figurative artist Tim Benson is working with the charity Orbis which helps communities around the world fight avoidable blindness and give quality eyecare where it is most needed to highlight their work.

“Painted portraits speak to people in a way that the written word and photography cannot” says Benson, vice-president of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. “My exhibitions engage people with important global challenges and build awareness through painting”.


The Mall show, which opens on March 12 and runs until March 17, has 21 oil portraits of Zambians, all for sale and the proceeds going to Orbis.

“Orbis works with many of the world’s leading ophthalmologists and nurses to deliver surgery to children and adults who have lost their vision to cataracts, trachoma and other eye problems” Benson says. “I visited Kitwe Hospital Eye Annexe in Northern Zambia to meet many of the children and adults who had sight-saving surgery, as well as the surgeons and other medical professionals who delivered it. This provided me with the experiences necessary to make an exhibition of paintings that will tell the stories of those involved in this miraculous and life-changing process.”


The collaboration with Benson offers a unique insight into Orbis’s work, says its CEO Rebecca Cronin. “There are 36 million people across the world who are blind - 75% of them needlessly so - and we hope that Tim’s powerful paintings will help people understand why Orbis is so passionate about changing this”.

The exhibition is to be opened by Sandy Nairne, the former director of the National Portrait Gallery. "Tim Benson's portraits have a vitality that is immediate and engaging” he says. “These paintings tell an important story about how Orbis is offering real hope in overcoming avoidable blindness. I cannot imagine living without sight, so I know this is a truly important collaboration.”

To see a time-lapse film of Tim Benson at work in Zambia, go to

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