Art is in the heart and mind, not in the hand, so the saying goes.
True to this adage, there is an amazing man in Malawiâ€™s capital, Lilongwe: He is a mouth painter. Every painting he makes is done using just his mouth. The paintings are beautiful, one would not believe they are done using a mouth.
Artist Chrisford Chayeraâ€™s inborn talent is so huge that it overshadows his physical disability. Without arms and relying on wheelchair for his mobility, Chayera has gone on to produce impressive paintings in all forms, including portraits and landscape.
Chayera was born able bodied in 1971. But tragedy struck in 1982 when he suffered from polio. But he continued with his education until he got Malawi School Certificate of Education [MSCE] in 1994. Since then, he has been using his mouth to paint pictures to tell stories.
He earns a living out of that. No wonder he was among the many artists who showcased their talent at the just ended Malawi Cultural Arts festival (MacFest).
Chayeraâ€™s artwork caught peopleâ€™s attention. People were left in awe upon seeing the man behind such huge talent.
He narrated his story: â€œUpon completing my secondary school, reality struck me. I realised I could not get formal employment. I, therefore, decided to take this path.â€
â€œI went to Macoha where I got a K2 000 loan, which I used to buy my first equipment such as brushes, acrylic and tube oil paints, plywood and nails, among others. I then started doing paintings to earn a living. I decorated them so they should be attractive to people while conveying a message,â€ said Chayera.
He said his paintings talk more about the culture of Malawi as well as the untapped natural beauty of the country.
â€œTalk of beautiful women and wildlife, I do that. Normally, I use canvass, which literally means fabric. But I also draw on plywood, wall or ladle, depending on the wish of the customer or myself as an artist. I can paint up to two 1.5 metre canvass in a day and mind you, this is a big piece of fabric,â€ he said.
â€œSince 1994, I have grown into what I am today-a man, who God blessed with talent, a man who looks after his wife and three children, a man who does not believe in alms,â€ explained Chayera.
However, the artist beamoaned the lack of support from Malawians to buy local products.
â€œI am surviving because of tourists and not Malawians. Tourists who have frequented Malawi know there is Chayera, a mouth painter. It is my wish that Malawians see the value of buying locally made arts. It should begin with us to support each other before waiting for others to come and help,â€ he said.
The Kawale 1 resident runs an art gallery.
â€œI am running Mtendere Arts Gallery and Signs in Wenela, near Immigration Offices in Lilongwe. I also print T-Shirts and banners, among others. I am a staunch believer of the saying disability is not inability and, therefore, I do certain things that able-bodied people cannot do,â€ he said.
Commenting on MacFest, Chayera said it is good forum for promoting Malawi Arts Heritage.
â€œI have sold two out of my 20 paintings which I brought to the festival. It is not very bad. However, the festival should have benefited artists more if organisers publicised the event more than they did in order to have a high turnout. Not many people came to the event,â€ said Chayera.