Turning pain into gain . . . gifted Given overcomes obstacles

Given Thomu putting finishing touches to his artwork

Tsitsi Ndabambi
Arts Correspondent
Visual artist Given Thomu has made a name for himself by sharing his gift with the world.

What makes his work peculiar is how he did not allow limitation to deter him from pursuing his dreams.

The horrific accident and loss of both hands 22 years ago will forever be etched on the mind of the talented Given, no matter how hard he tries to erase it from his memory.

On the fateful day in 1999 aged only six years, a shiny wire which he meant to play with permanently changed his life.

Little did Given know that the wire was a dangerous weapon that would make him lose his arms.


Giving an account of the intricately fateful day he said: “Being young and after losing my parents, I was an adventurous boy. A shiny wire attracted my attention when I was playing. As soon as I touched it, I felt an excruciating pain shoot through my body.

“Both my hands which held the wire were numb with electric shock and burst open, they immediately shrivelled and turned black. This is what saved my life from the certain jaws of death. I was immediately rushed to Parirenyatwa Hospital where they were amputated my hands.”

The rehabilitation journey was not a walk in the park for Given.

After spending six months in hospital, he had to learn to write and draw using his mouth, while learning how to feed, bath and dress himself up with his feet which he successfully tackled.

“All this was painful because it happened just after losing my parents with only my grandmother as my source of comfort,” recalled Given.

Aside from self pity, Given genuinely expressed that he was inspired instead by the loss of his hands and wanted the world to know his internal thoughts, feelings, desires and challenging people out there that nothing can stop anyone from making use of the natural gift that only the creator can directly give a person.

Right after the accident, the sky was the limit for him.

After finishing his Ordinary Level, Given pursued vocational training in art and craft at Jairos Jiri, moving on to Mzilikazi Arts and Craft Centre in Bulawayo where he developed and polished up his painting skills at 18 years.

Given started using pencil and paints on canvas to create masterpieces using his mouth.

One would have wallowed and felt devastated, but Given was determined to achieve something  despite his disability.


“Even in my leisure time I paint because that’s all I love doing,” he said.

“I sell my artwork overseas, especially in the United States with the help of a very special lady called Mrs Chibaya.

“Right now I don’t have specific clients, I just sell to anyone who likes and values art. My inspiration came right after I had the accident and lost both arms, so I wanted to tell people what I was feeling inside all my pain and sorrows and show people that disability is not an inability.

“I credit and applaud my role model and my primary school art teacher Mr Moffat Chikomo. He was the person to introduce me into the world of art. He believed in me and that alone gave me confidence and courage to practice working on canvas and paper with my mouth.

“On top of my goals list, I want to set up a gallery in Europe or in America where the market has more traffic. My other desire is to motivate others, so I am working on becoming a motivational speaker.”

Given said he wanted to travel around the world and share his story which he believes can inspire other people.

“I do believe that one day I will turn my pain into gain, while helping others to live life without limits no matter how hard their circumstances may portray,” he said.

“Right now I am excited to tell you that I am writing my first book titled ‘Hands Off! Living a Life Without Limits’ and yes I am a keyboard player too. I use my feet to play music. I love dancehall and gospel music. My favourite food is sadza and beef.”