Sidcup mouth artist chews on experience to inspire others
PUBLISHED: 09:28 25 October 2012
Ranjit Bhamra has painted using just his mouth for much of his life after contracting polio at the age of two, depriving him of the use of his hands.
He belongs to the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (AMFPA), which aims to give artists who have either lost their hands through accidents or illnesses or people who have been born or become disabled, the opportunity to produce and display work.
Born in Uganda to Indian parents in 1957, one of five children, Ranjit’s family moved to Bexley in 1965 to take advantage of the better medical care available in Britain.
He said: “When I arrived in England and started going to hospital I couldn’t speak English. The only way I could communicate with doctors and nurses was to draw or paint.
“It was a necessity at first but I grew to love painting and my skill has developed from there. It took many years to perfect my technique because it’s really hard to learn to hold something in your mouth that’s quite fragile without breaking it.”
Doctors and teachers encouraged him to develop his technique because it gave him an outlet for his understandable frustration with the situation and he carried on with his art when he went to boarding school in Essex.
Ranjit said: “It was trial and error at first but now it’s second nature. I like painting most things, from landscapes to more abstract or surreal pieces.”
After leaving art college in 1978, Ranjit lived in residential accommodation in Bognor Regis, Sussex, for 12 years until he realised the dream of living in his own house when Bexley Council placed him in a flat in Saxon Walk, Foots Cray. He has lived there ever since.
“Living in your own place gives you control of your life. You can get up when you want, you’re part of a community and it gives you a whole sense of purpose.
“My care was still under the council because that’s where my parents always lived and I can’t thank them enough for giving me independent living. The next step is financial independence and not relying on benefits.”
Ranjit hopes AMFPA can help him achieve this. He has been connected to the organisation on and off since 1977 and is hoping some of his paintings are displayed on Christmas cards and calendars – which has obvious monetary benefits.
He is just starting to paint again after a two-year hiatus because of a neck complaint.
Ranjit is also co-chairman of the Inspire Community Trust, which runs services on behalf of the countil to help disabled people to live independently, and a Disability Equality trainer.
He said: “Disabled people can achieve anything. I’ve had a fulfilled life and hopefully I can give something back to the community through my painting and charity work. If my experiences give other people in similar positions something to draw on that can only be a good thing.”
For more information on AMFPA visit www.amfpa.co.uk.