A woman who lost the use of her arms and legs following a spinal injury is embarking on a new career as a painter.
Vanessa Haahoff, originally from Zimbabwe but now living in Bristol, was injured while studying in South Africa.
The 40-year-old began painting using her mouth instead of her hands as part of her rehabilitation.
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Now living in Bristol, Vanessa has been accepted by the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA), a partnership of over 800 artists with disabilities, which means they can’t paint with their hands and fingers.
And the artist, whose work tends to focus on Impressionist landscapes and views, is now urging the people of Bristol to support what is a long history of mouth and foot paintings in this country.
Vanessa’s stunning paintings are available for purchase as regular artwork, but this year she was on the prestigious list of artists contributing to MFPA’s prestigious annual Christmas card collection. The MFPA was founded over 60 years ago in 1957, and for decades has produced Christmas cards showcasing the work of its members.
And now, as many of us most organized receive next year’s Christmas cards right after Christmas or New Years, she is urging people to support artists with disabilities like her.
“Sending Christmas cards is a great British tradition that we started to do again during the pandemic,” she said. “This not only benefits recipients and spreads joy, but also supports artists with disabilities and is a conscious activity for the sender,” she added.
Vanessa grew up in Zimbabwe, but it was while studying for a bachelor’s degree in human movement science in South Africa that she suffered a spinal injury, resulting in quadriplegia.
During rehabilitation in a South African spinal unit, Vanessa began painting while holding a brush in her mouth.
Along with developing her art, she returned to Rhodes University to study journalism and politics, and lived and worked in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Zambia as a journalist and loved to paint nature and landscapes. unique landscapes.
After moving to the UK, Vanessa continued her education, changing courses to read a Masters in International Development at the University of Bristol and became involved with the British Mouth & Foot Painting Artists.
She lives independently with her caretaker and a cat in Bristol, where she has immersed herself in the art scene, and has also been involved in a fundraiser for the charity Back Up, which inspires and empowers people with spinal cord injuries like hers from getting back to playing sports and becoming active again.
In this context, she brought together a team of 15 people on two occasions to push and pull her to the top of Yr Wyddfa, the highest mountain in Wales.
She said the experiences, which saw her team battling terrible conditions on the slopes of Snowdon, made her aware of the possibility of raising awareness and financially supporting spinal cord injuries in poor countries, like her native Zimbabwe, where the primary concerns are access to healthcare and wheelchairs.
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