A DEAF artist has been commended for his intricate work based on Chester Zoo – made all the more remarkable because he has been blind since he was a teenager.

Minerva Hussain has Usher syndrome, which started to affect his sight when he was 18, gradually getting worse until he was left with just peripheral vision.

But the 44-year-old uses photographs, a magnifying glass and his memory to create vivid, incredibly detailed and tactile work that the viewer can see with their fingers as well as their eyes.

His Chester Zoo collage is full of different animals hiding and peeping from behind thick paper foliage and stiff cardboard fences, the enclosures are covered in glassy plastic, and he has included safari trucks, a ticket office and the zoo’s much-loved monorail.

“It was hard work, especially with my sight, to do everything myself,” he said.

“I cut out everything – there was a lot of sweat involved when I was sat down cutting things out and I had to make sure there was plenty of light so I could see everything.

“It took five weeks to do.”

Minerva, who has studied art at Mid Cheshire College, in Winsford, and who lives at the Deafness Support Network’s (DSN) Stepping Stones centre in Northwich, has recently had cataract operations, which have also improved his close up vision.

“I have a magnifier that I put over my work that helps to magnify it and I move it around, moving it in and out,” he said.

“I create it in the way I do so that I can feel the shapes and feel how things are”

The work was one of 140 exhibits in a Cheshire West and Chester Council open exhibition held at the Funky Aardvark Gallery, in Chester.

Minerva, who also attends DSN’s Tannery Day Centre, in Northwich, once a week, received a special commendation and a prize of vouchers which he has spent on art materials.

“I went to Chester to get my award and was really proud that out of all the pictures they chose mine,” he said.

“It’s made me have a big head,” he joked.

“I’m definitely going to carry on with my art work, relax at home and carry on with different projects.”

• Minerva spoke to the Guardian via two interpreters. He used his own version of ‘hands on’ sign language with his interpreter, Ian Wilkinson, who is also deaf and used sign language to speak to a second interpreter, Lyn Kirwan, who spoke to reporter Gina Bebbington, who then noted Minerva’s comments in shorthand. See video, below.