Swapna Augustine is a world-famous foot artist. Not wanting to accept defeat, she overcame her physical condition to achieve phenomenal success in the world of art. She has painted over 4000 canvases in the last 15 years, mostly 24 inch x 18inch. Inspired by achievers like Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, and Stephen Hawking, the girl without arms even painted their portraits with her big toe and index toe on her left foot. She has received the ‘Icon of the year 2018’ by the World Malayali Foundation. Here is another inspiring story of an extraordinary person who is armless but independent.

Swapna was born in Ernakulam district of Kerala, on 21 January 1975, to Augustine a farmer, and Sophie, a homemaker. Since birth, she did not have both arms. When Swapna Augustine was four years old, her parents began to train her to use her toes. A difficult task at first, the little girl did not know how to bend her toes in different angles. But Swapna’s parents were extremely patient with her.

When she was six years old, they enrolled Swapna at St. Theresa’s School, Changanassery. Here she stayed at their mercy home for disabled persons run by the nuns. This helped her tremendously. The nuns taught Swapna to perform her daily chores using her feet. Once she learned to write with her foot, she went to Nirmala High School (Muvattupuzha). Here, her art teacher Denny Mathew noticed her exceptional ability in arts. 

By the time Swapna Augustine turned 12, she had become pretty independent. She realized that her condition was irreversible. She said, “Till then, I had a hope that a transplant or some other treatment might be possible.” 

After school, Swapna decided to study history at St. Mary’s College, Ernakulam. At first, she was looked upon differently but soon became an inspiration for others with a disability. She even helped friends to improve their drawing and painting abilities. After graduation, she started to hold a few exhibitions of her paintings which received high appreciation. That is when she decided to pursue art as her full-time occupation. 

Swapna’s paintings on nature and Hindu Gods are well-received by the art community. It takes her around five to eight days to complete a canvas. The pencil sketch takes two to three days as she cannot sit for more than a few hours a day on the floor to paint. Apart from drawing on canvas, she has also started to paint on glass and do murals. Since 1999, she is also been a member of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (AMFPA), Switzerland. The association helps her and twenty-three other member artists from India to sell their art. AMFPA has a total of 700 artists spread across around 80 countries. The association even sponsors Swapna’s trips for exhibitions in Singapore, Qatar, Turkey, and UAE.

In 2017, Swapna participated in a programme in Dubai conducted by Nick Vujicic. She gifted Nick with his family portrait that she specially painted for him. 

The tough girl has come a long way. She firmly believes her parents gave her wings to fly high in the sky instead of her arms. 

A Foot Painting by Swapna Augistine. Image credits: Onmanorama

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