It was early in the morning and Kaleb had just passed a military physical fitness test every German citizen was obliged to undergo at the age of 18.
He jumped out of the building and on to his bike heading towards his favorite lake to go for a swim.
He used to be one of the best players in his local handball club enjoying sports like any other young Eritrean growing up in the diaspora. Kaleb was born in Eritrea and moved to the West in the early 80’s together with his family.
Kaleb was not interested in arts nor did he know who Van Gogh, Salvador Dali or Leonardo da Vinci was until the day it happened. He only had sports on his mind.
As he reached the lake he dove head first into the water hitting his head against a large rock. Kaleb was knocked unconscious immediately and airlifted by an emergency medical helicopter to a nearby Sports Injury Clinic. He had to be put into medically induced coma after suffering life threatening injuries.
The boy remained in coma for two weeks until doctors woke him up, which was a relief to his friends and family. He was diagnosed paralyzed from neck down. The first weeks and months Kaleb could not understand what had happened to him and he thought that he will regain his ability to move arms and legs in no time.
At this age it was very difficult for him to go through rehab sessions depending on others to do basic things such as watching tv, dressing, eating and washing.
The first time he learned about art was through music and painting therapies, suggested by experts to strengthen and stimulate his muscles and nerves. He says that therapists got him interested in painting with the mouth.
For years Kaleb practiced writing and painting with a pen giving him the ability to hold a brush steady in his mouth. He turned his accident into something positive and wants to carry a message of hope through his art.
He says, “My art is a visual expression of my feelings”.
Kaleb is slowly but surely turning towards a celebrated artist and recently had his first exhibition and vernissage on mouth art in Munich.
The 32 year-old artist says that his example shows that people with disability can lead normal lives and decide their own destiny.
“I want to contribute something to this world, so I am pushing myself to be creative in what I am doing”
His future plan is to study art at the University in Munich to broaden his skills in painting. The artist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.