You may have received brightly coloured postcards in the mail, accompanied by a note explaining that they have been painted by mouth and foot artists, with a call for $17, but how well do you really understand the cause you’re helping?
On the way to Malaysia, a thunderstorm up above and road slick with freshly-fallen rain in April, 2005, left Christina Lau permanently disabled from the chest down, doubled with a C6 spinal cord injury. Lau is now one of the registered mouth and foot artists part of the MFPA association, which prides itself for giving people with disabilities a new purpose in life. “After the accident, life started at zero.” recalled Lau in a presentation to UWC East’s Grade 9 students during their annual Writer’s Fortnight on the 19th of January. People such as Nic Dunlop, a photojournalist and Kosal Khiev, an ex-convict and poet, also shared their stories.
Suddenly stripped from basic skills that she took for granted, Lau shares that she was depressed with her state. She spent most days watching TV and feeling frustrated with everything she couldn’t do. Lines between each day blurred into one another, and before she knew it, a couple days suddenly became 5 years. Lau felt that she had lost the point in life. It took those 5 long years of almost giving up, a group of friends and a ton of self motivation for Lau to realise that although she had lost most of her body, she had not lost everything. This perseverance was so important for Lau to turn her life around and find some happiness in it. She still had control of her mind, heart and eyes and she set out to do something meaningful with them. With an open mind, Lau learnt of mouth painting from a group of friends from Tetra Activities and was keen to try it out, even though she had never liked to paint or draw before. She found that she liked to paint, and felt proud to be able to produce these beautiful paintings. 2 years later, after many hours of patience, stiff necks and care, Lau was officially recognised by the MFPA as a mouth artist in 2012.
“Disabled, not unable.”
When asked if Lau would avoid going through the accident if she could, she surprised us all by saying that she would not avoid it. After a moment’s contemplation, she added that it was because she became a different person after, more compassionate, patient and grateful. Even though it took her a long time to be comfortable with herself again, she thought that everything she had gone through made her a better person. Lau said that, after all, she was “disabled, not unable” and everything she has done after the accident represents that. Yes, she had a permanent disability, but that did not prevent her from doing meaningful things, giving back to the community, and pursuing a skill she never knew she had.
Today, Christina is happily integrated in the MFPA and loves painting and producing artwork.
Christina Lau is just one story, among many others who have turned their life around after an accident. From Christina, we have been exposed to someone who has overcome a massive obstacle and has found a way to be happy, even when she had to restart her entire life.
Lau’s depiction of a Spottiswoode Park Road
Involvement in the MFPA
Lau and her fellow members at the MFPA have skilfully painted many pictures, either from their imagination or around the world. Lau has also recently started learning table tennis as another hobby in addition to mouth painting. Many of the MFPA member’s paintings have been printed into postcards and sent around Singapore in an effort to raise awareness about their cause and funds for new paintbrushes, paints and art materials.
By Sara Cheakdkaipejchara, Grade 9
"Christina Lau Lay Lian." MFPA. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.