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29 years of painting: Story of mouth painter

NEW HOME—Chayera drawing one of the pieces

NEW HOME—Chayera at work at BICC

No matter how hard things maybe at times, everything works out when one is determined.

Hard work coupled with passion breeds positive results.

There are people out there who have given up on their talents when the going has turned tough but for others, the challenges encountered have pushed them to keep walking just like Johnny Walker.

Today, they are singing songs of a number of achievements in their life.

One such person who has fought his was way to where he is today is visual artist Chrisford Chayera, a former Visual Arts Association of Malawi (Vaam) president.

Chayera is has a physical disability but through his exceptional artworks are an expression of the philosophy that disability is not inability.

Chayera, who has several accolades to his credit including the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) innovations award, has stunned many people with his artistry. He continues to impress in a career that he started in 1994.

It is now 29 years of painting for the Lilongwe-based visual artist. Chayera paints with his mouth because he does not have hands. He also moves by a wheel chair.

His talent has shone through physical challenges he has.

Chayera is one of the many who have excelled above their disabilities.

It is in this vein that some organisations such as Focus on Ability Society (Foas) in conjunction with Nova Employment have taken up a lead role to give a voice and also put to light some of the success stories of persons with disabilities.

Chayera has been flexible in his craft and explored new things in order to be relevant to the society.

“Over the past years, I have been operating at Old Wenela [in Lilongwe] but I have now moved to Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) and I am also running under a brand new name of my company,” he says.

At Old Wenela, he was paying rentals.

“But here at BICC it is free of charge. I am not paying anything. I have a friend from Canada who facilitated everything with BICC management,” he says.

Chayera is using his talent to earn a living and he calls upon the corporate world and other well-wishers to support him.

“Materials for creating these artworks are expensive and this is where well-wishers can come in and support me,” he says.

When creating an artwork, the visual artist gets support from his family in terms of stretching the canvas, fixing his drawing board as well as organize brushes.

This regardless, he is quick in coming up with a painting.

“I have got used now because this is my work. The challenges are there. As a person with disability, it is the same with every human being who has challenges,” Chayera says.

Through art, Chayera has been able to travel to other countries including South Africa and Japan.

“So, this is a career worth pursuing. I have over the years managed to sell paintings that have earned me enough to buy other needs but when Covid struck, a lot of visual artists lost out. As for me, I could not make money and I ended up selling other things,” he said.

A devoted Christian of Assemblies of God Church, Chayera recalls that the painting that put him in the limelight is a portrait of former president Bakili Muluzi.

“To come up with my works, I use oil and acrylic paints and in a day I can produce two to three paintings,” he says.

Chayera says there is a bright future for visual artists in the country but he urges artists to move with the times.

“As visual artists we need to move with the times, we need to embrace technology if we are to improve in our craft,” he says.

Chayera never went to school to learn his trade. But he underwent primary and secondary education in Blantyre,

“This for me is inborn and it is all praise to God for this talent,” he says.

He says that he charges his artworks depending on the item made.

“There are artworks that take you time and demand a lot and those ones can cost a leg but again, let me also say that people should learn to respect and value art because art is expensive,” Chayera says.

To pick calls on his cellphone and send messages, Chayera used his mouth.

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