Swapna Augustine, 40, a native of Paingottoor in Kerala’s Ernakulam district, is an internationally acclaimed painter, winner of Icon of the year 2018’ honour, colouring the canvases with her feet.
Swapna was born short with a disfigured spine. Born without both arms, Swapna till late believed that her arms were yet to grow out of her body. However, at the age of 12, she came to terms with her reality.
Her parents — Augustine, a farmer, and Sophie, a homemaker enrolled Swapna at a home for the disabled in Changanassery when she was six. She would only go back home for Onam and yuletide. Swapna lived an independent life from the age of six, she grew up taking for her decision, the young girl outgrew her disability by following her passion for painting.
“I was so reluctant to interact with the traditional people at a younger age. But all folks at the Mercy Home were sent to usual schools where normal children study. It’s enhanced my social interactions. I feel children with disabilities shouldn’t be enrolled in special schools unless their condition is that worse. Mingling with the mainstream society will help both the parties accept one another,” she says, according to a report.
Eldest among the four sisters, Swapna’s sisters taught her to try to do everything with her feet including eating and writing and in fact, drawing and painting. Swapna had dexterity with legs and gradually started operating with them, all that one does with hands.
“I was assisted by my mother for all activities until I turned four. At four, an area tutor (aashan) called Ayyappan started giving me home tuition on the way to write by holding a pencil between my toes,” Swapna recalled, according to a media report.
However, she took up painting after she completed her graduation in History from St. Joseph’s College, Alappuzha. Swapna returned home as a confident young painter who was all set to enter the world of art and paint the canvas. Soon after her return, Swapna was ready to organize an exhibition of her amateur works. However, she entered the professional means and shifted to the canvas only after attending workshops on acrylic painting. No later, she was introduced to a community of mouth and foot painters in Kerala by one of her friends and there was no turning back thereafter. From there she was selected together among the 27 Indians and nine Keralites to urge a membership within the International Mouth and Foot Painting Artists’ Association (IMFPA), which is headquartered in Switzerland and has an office in Mumbai. Swapna has also been a member of the Mouth & Foot Painting Artist since 1999.
The association gave her the much-needed platform and helped her sell her works along with similar artists. “There are 24 such artists all over India and their number totals 700 spread across around 80 countries,” a report said.
Swapna actively participates in social activities. Her artwork manifests her strong will and never give up attitude which she often exhibits among students and motivates them. Swapna’s talents have crossed the shores and reached overseas; her talent is acknowledged by various magazines, organizations, and youth journals.