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Painting without hands

Written by  Connex Kafera

When Chrisford Chayera was awarded the prize for best visual artist at the Copyright Society of Malawi COSOMA’s Silver jubilee cerebrations held in Lilongwe recently, there was a general surprise. As it turned out Chrisford Chayera is man whose legs and hands are paralyzed. How does he do it?

Chayera adds the final flourshing to his work of art Chayera adds the final flourshing to his work of art

With a small paint brush in his mouth painting a village setting in his self-contained house, Chrisford Chayera tells a story of how he overcame the sudden change of his physical body.

Though the brush affects his voice's audibility, Chayera made it clear that it is his mouth that does all the work that is earning him a lot of praise now.

"I was born a normal person with all parts working until 1982 when I was attacked by polio. My legs and arms became dysfunctional," recalls Chayera.

From this tragedy, Chayera started using a wheel chair for movement. He now had to rely on his mouth to do what he had mostly been doing using his hands.


Fortunately, he still had a chance to go on with his education. After completing his secondary school in 1994, Chayera spent more time perfecting his painting.

"Though I was born talented in drawing, it took me about a year to master painting using my mouth," says the four-time award winner.

But looking at what he was painting on the day the MBC crew visited him, it is difficult to believe that the painting is put together out of mouth work.

Perched on the table in front of Chayera is a portrait depicting village life and the activities people perform to earn a living.

The Baobao tree which in villages indicates where people not only find shade, but also discuss issues, features prominently on the canvas. Its a painting that would take many Africans aback while allowing others to have a feel of what village life in Africa means.

But Chayera still insisted this is not his best art. He cites the portrait he painted of the face of former president Bakili Muluzi in 1997 as one of his best arts. 

Chayera who is living in Kawale 1 in Malawi’s capital city says his work mostly contains village life as the central theme. He also paints anything a person can ask including portraits.

Chayera's masterpieces do not attract the attention of Malawians only. On his recent journey to Japan, people there did not believe that the work he was showing was really his.

"Most of times people find it difficult to believe that I paint these beautiful portraits. In Japan I was told to paint infront of them to prove my skill," said Chalera.

In the past he was painting a maximum of four portraits per day but now he is reaching five per day.

The father of three says with the money earned from his paintings, he has opened two  two shops one which displays and sells his paintings and another one where his wife sells plastic products.

"I have done a lot with money I earn in this art. I bought five vehicles, two houses and I also continued my education by studying a diploma in business management," said Chayera while painting in his self-contained house.

He credits his visits to countries like Japan and United States exhibiting his work as also an achievement.

The former President of the Visual Arts association of Malawi wishes to train fellow persons with disabilities so that they can rely on themselves rather than begging as some do.

"I know I am becoming old now so if I just need financial resources so that I can establish my own school to train fellow persons with disability to make them rely on themselves not begging as many do," said Chalera.

It is clear Chayera is doing wonders that many, even without a disability  cannot do. Chrisford Chayera by far typifies the saying that disability is not inability.

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