Every painting that takes life on Sunita Thrippanikkara’s canvases bears a distinct signature of the young artist. She considers this her freedom as both creator and enjoyer of the artwork.
Hailing from a place called Kunjimangalam in Payyannur, Kannur, Sunita tells us that she draws inspiration from her brother Ganesh Kumar, who is also a practitioner of mouth painting. She presently resides in her hometown along with her mother and her siblings. Sunita elaborates on how she was attracted to the world of painting right from a very tender age. Although initially she used to employ her hands for painting, the physical constraints imposed by muscular dystrophy hindered her from continuing it. When she reached a point where her hands had become too weak to paint, she switched to using her mouth as per her brother’s advice.
Sunita found herself ostracized from society and friends due to her physical impairment and had to tackle extreme loneliness right from her childhood. However, the artist refused to succumb to this loneliness and instead used it as an opportunity to focus more on her painting skills. Most of her drawings depict her own innermost thoughts and ideas, while some of them exhibit the mesmerizing beauty of nature. Sunita has, to date, presented her paintings in more than a thousand art exhibitions, of which around ten of them were solo exhibitions. She has also bagged quite a few accolades including the ‘Sreshta Vanitha’ award by the Health Department of Kerala in 2016 and the National award for Outstanding Creative Adult Person with Disability in 2017.
Sunita appreciates the many positive changes that mouth painting has brought into her life. She is thankful for the financial stability offered by AMFPA’s scholarship for mouth painters and also cherishes the opportunities she gets to interact with artists from around the world.
Being a person who has participated in countless art exhibitions within and beyond the country, Sunita expresses her dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in Kerala. She laments that in Kerala there are only fewer opportunities for artists with disabilities to monetize their skills, when compared to other states and countries. “Artists with disabilities have to face redoubled challenges now, in the face of the Covid pandemic and it saddens me that the state government doesn’t take effort to help such persons earn a livelihood out of their talents”.
Sunita encourages artists like herself to not get pulled down by societal attitudes and instead look within themselves to discover the inspiration to pursue their talents.