Formed in 1956, the MFPA is an international, for-profit association wholly owned and run by disabled artists. The Association came into being when Erich Stegmann, a polio-stricken mouth painter, gathered together a small group of disabled artists with a common goal to make a living through their artistic efforts; to have a sense of self worth and pride that until then had eluded them.
To this day, the MFPA’s motto worldwide remains
“Self Help – Not Charity.”
Combining his creative abilities with business acumen, Stegmann established the MFPA as a co-operative organisation that reproduces the artists’ work mainly in the form of cards, calendars and books, helping them meet their financial needs. One of Stegmann’s main objectives was that the MFPA must never be regarded as a charity simply because its members are disabled. To Stegmann, the word “charity” was as abhorrent as the word “pity.”
The Association maintains that it is not a charity and does not qualify for charitable assistance.Over 60 years later and this small group has grown to be an international organisation more than 800 members in 78 countries. All of these talented artists paint with brushes held in their mouths or feet as a result of a disability sustained at birth or through an accident or illness that prohibits them from using their hands.Singapore is home to 15 of these amazing Artists and BAM! is extremely proud to showcase some of their beautiful paintings and share some of the stories behind these great creatives.
Rajinder was just 26 years old when a motorbike accident left him paralysed from the chest down, rendering him a complete tetraplegic. Prior to his accident Rajinder was training as a technician for a petrochemical company and afterwards tried to continue working in telemarketing but the inability to move his hands made it impossible. Having always had a flair for the arts, Rajinder took the plunge, picked up a brush with his mouth and started to paint. He felt absolute joy as he began to create, and this joy expresses itself in all his beautiful artwork. Rajinder has been with the MPFA for 12 years now and credits them with providing him with an opportunity to forge a career as an Artist.
After a car accident left Zhang paralysed from her shoulders down, this former Chinese language teacher resolved not to allow herself to sink into a state of depression but instead, to move onwards and upwards and create a new and different life for herself. She started to hold a brush between her teeth and paint. It was tremendously difficult for her at the beginning and suffering regular dizzy spells meant she was unable to steady the brush. However, Kaini was determined to succeed and with perseverance overcame all the odds to become a very successful artist. “My paintings are colourful and cheerful” she explains of her work, “They reflect my life. I want my art works to inspire others to be courageous and optimistic.”
Kaini is currently working for the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artist Worldwide, striving to change society’s perceptions of physically challenged citizens such as herself. Her dream is to one day have a solo exhibition.
Aaron Yeo Kwok Chian
Aaron was born on 21 January 1979. On 12 November 2006 he was involved in a motorbike accident on his way home from work, sustaining spinal injuries which changed his life forever. For a long time after his hospital stay he did not know what to do until he met another tetraplegic, Gilbert Tan Yue Liang, who introduced him to mouth painting. In painting he has discovered a hidden talent that he pursues with a passion and being a part of the MPFA, means he is able to earn a living and not be a financial burden to his family.
Raymond was born in 1965 and as an only son, his family had high hopes of him continuing to run the family drinks stall business. A fateful day in August 1993 was to change all this. Raymond was travelling back from dinner with friends in a car that was hit by a taxi. The car over turned and Raymond was left paralysed from the chest down. Raymond was married with a young son and was surrounded by a supportive extended family who helped him accept the drastic changes to his life. However, it took him almost 17 years after the accident to work through his confusion and realize that he could do something to help his family financially and not to be a burden to them. From then on, his interest in the arts started to blossom. Using the help of YouTube videos he taught himself how to paint, learning to control the brush with his mouth. In 2011 Raymond joined the MFPA and has never looked back. In 2017 he joined us at the official launch of BAM! delighting our guests with a live demonstration of how he creates his beautiful paintings.
In 1982, at just 20 years old, Daniel met with a tragic car accident which left him paralyzed from his neck downwards. For the next 25 years Daniel relied on the help of his family for both emotional and financial help. However, all this was to change when in 2009 some friends introduced him to MFPA and presented him with a challenge – to paint by mouth! The complete loss of all his finger movements meant that wielding anything with his hands was an impossible feat but the idea of being able to create something of artistic value intrigued him and he persevered in his artistic endeavours. Despite the obvious difficulties, Daniel found painting to be therapeutic providing welcome relief from the endless television programmes, which often prove to be the only available pastime to those largely confined to bed. With the help of friends and family, Daniel was able to join painting sessions and grew to be an impressive mouth painter. Today he is an inspiring Artist with real meaning and purpose to his life.
Christina was born in 1972 and before a tragic car accident in 2005 left her paralaysed from the chest down, she enjoyed her career as a Prison Office. The accident in Malaysia was so severe that Doctors told Christina she would be permanently disabled.
Refusing to be defined by her new disabilities, Christina was determined to forge a new life for herself and got to know a group of friends who all painted with their mouths. Christina was intrigued and wanted to know more. Prior to her accident she had no real interest in the arts, but life had now changed so she picked up a brush and with steely determination taught herself to be a skilled painter. She was recognised by MFPA as a Student Member in March 2012 and today Christina’s work can be seen all over Singapore including on BAM! In 2017, Christina was also present at our official launch and we proudly watched her live demonstration where she created a special piece for the BAM! auction.