When I draw and paint I feel alive because my works help me express myself," said Kazakh painter Tolkyn Sakbayeva, born with cerebral palsy and little hope that she could ever speak or hold a pencil - but who has recently opened an exhibition of her works in Barcelona.

Sakbayeva, 24, who since last year has lived here with her mother and two sisters, exhibited some 30 canvases under the title "Light of My Life," at an event for close to 100 guests that included Danat Mussayev, an official at the Kazakhstan Embassy.

When she was born, doctors diagnosed her with cerebral palsy and warned her family that their daughter would never be able to walk, speak, read, have a grasp of reality or even hold a pencil in her hand.

But her father, scientist Altay Sakbayev, and her mother, Aspet Sakbayeva, never gave her up.

From the time she was a little girl she showed a passion for drawing and, when at age 4 she could pick up a pencil, it took her several months to draw a simple line because her hands would simply not obey her.

But her strength of will and love of art overcame many of the physical limitations imposed by her illness.

Sakbayeva's favorite artists are Goya, Henri Matisse, Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso, which is reflected in her paintings with their softened outlines and intense coloring.

Since she has been in Spain, she has expanded her subject matter, so that this year she has painted landscapes of Sitges - near Barcelona - and Granada, street musicians and flamenco dancers. EFE