A disabled Iranian woman who spent many years of her life in a rehabilitation centre has turned into an active and sociable artist.
35-year-old Samaneh Ehsaninia recently held her seventh individual painting exhibition. She has painted all her beautiful and fabulous works with a brush in her mouth, which is the result of her efforts and creativity.
She had her spinal cord severed at the neck in a car accident 15 years ago. Samaneh herself says she suffers from the most severe form of disability and cannot live on her own, just like an infant who cannot do anything alone. The only difference is that she can talk.
She started painting professionally seven years ago. Now, she has come to a point where she has achieved a considerable degree of financial independence by selling her works of art. She even has an assistant who receives salary from her. Samaneh’s paintings displayed at an art gallery in Tehran were priced at 30 million rials and above, each. The paintings were greatly welcomed by visitors who bought them.
So far, she has put her paintings on show at 16 exhibitions, nine of which have been individual exhibits.
Samaneh has not limited her activities to painting alone. She is also working as an anchor and writer. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of a theatre group of physically disabled individuals. She has been playing the harmonica for a year now.
Excerpts from Fars News Agency’s interview with her follow:
– What techniques are used in your paintings? Do you use acrylic or oil paint or other styles of painting?
My paintings are drawn by water colour and acrylic. They are a combination of different styles such as realism, surrealism and impressionism.
– Your paintings come in big sizes. Please explain how you create such large paintings with your mouth.
These works have been done in the form of modules, i.e. they are drawn in the form of puzzles. First, small canvases are designed and painted; then, they are pieced together to form a large tableau.
– Who have you been inspired by when it comes to this style of painting?
Due to my interest in artistic activities and my experience in the field of art before I was disabled such as acting on the theatre stage, photography and marquetry, I felt I needed to take up a new branch of art. When I was in the rehab centre I was invited to visit an exhibition in the city of Mashhad where works of art by disabled people was on display. They had drawn the paintings with their hands and feet. I was motivated by those works very much and felt if disabled people can paint with their feet, I can definitely paint with my mouth, too.
At the beginning, I began painting with my friends and other helpful people at the rehab centre. However, when I left there and decided to start my own life independently, I met some masters in painting who helped me press ahead with my painting career more professionally. So, I began painting with my mouth in 2008 and have continued this job till now. I have been financially independent for almost 5 years now. You know, I suffer from the most severe form of disability. I am like an infant who cannot do anything alone. I can only talk.
– How did you get along with your disability?
Naturally, for somebody who used to walk on her own feet, made efforts and achieved success during the time she was able to walk, it would be difficult to get on with a situation which is very much different from that of the past.
When I was at the rehabilitation centre and saw the lifestyles of individuals who had a similar situation to mine, I began to ponder whether it would be possible to live under such circumstances. I thought if so many people can, I can, too, and that I only needed to find a way. Where there is a will, there is a way, but if there is no will, there will be excuses in order not to do something.
I had two options before me. I had to either wait to die, or fight for my dreams and try to create a new life for myself. Undoubtedly, I chose the second option.
I began to study and create an art in my life, and that was nothing but “painting,” which taught me that disability is pointless and the physical body is only 3 percent of the whole thing and that our souls make up 97 percent of our existence.
As I had pulled off many successes 20 years ago before I became disabled, I secured many achievements over the past 15 years, too. Definitely, my disability helped me turn into a new discoverer and enabled me to live in a new world with a new lifestyle.
– What do you do when you get tired or exhausted?
I try to close my eyes and think about my dreams and the things I’d like to create in my life.
– What other art do you like to experience, but you are unable to because of your disability?
I have never thought about “being unable to.” Of course, I have thought about what I like and how I can do it. For example, I loved music and picked an instrument which I could play without hands. I chose the harmonica. Where there is a will, there is a will.
– What is your biggest wish?
My biggest wish is to be able to present my works at art galleries in other countries as an Iranian artist and to be able to donate the hope and light shining in my heart to all people around the world.