West Oxfordshire artist pays tribute to ‘incredible people’ with split lips in London exhibition

An Oxfordshire artist has launched an exhibition to raise awareness for people with cleft lip and palate – and to challenge the way people think about facial differences

Katie Manning, 46, lives in West Oxfordshire and has hand drawn portraits of children around the world born with a cleft in conjunction with Smile Train, the international charity for children’s clefts.

By doing so, she hopes to change people’s judgment of those with facial differences and educate the public about the condition which affects 1 in 700 people.

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Her artistic journey is partly inspired by her family’s experiences as her eldest daughter was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate and her husband was born with a unilateral cleft.

She said: “This trip itself was quite difficult because she [daughter] was born, but as I got older it got harder and that led me to reach out to the slot community.

“My family life and my experiences and my creative drive kind of came together, so I decided I wanted to work and represent these amazing people.”

Manning decided she would draw 100 portraits of people born with clefts. She approached the charity Smile Train with her idea and they were “so enthusiastic” that they “kindly” let Manning use their images “to get started”.

Katie Manning’s husband and daughter were both born with split lips

The aim of the series of portraits is to educate the public about the condition but also to change the way people look at people with facial differences.

Manning said: “If you don’t have that experience in your life then you don’t know what it is and I think education is key.

“I think it’s so important that when we walk down the street and see people with facial differences, I want society as a whole to be held accountable for how we see and respond to each other. to others.”

She also points out that much of the attention is on babies and children, but the disease persists throughout “their whole life”. She said: ‘Cleft lip and palate is misunderstood as just a cosmetic problem, but in reality it has many implications for those affected in relation to breathing and eating.

She describes her own personal experiences as putting a “fire in her belly” to use her artistic ability to make people “have an answer” and look “through different eyes”.

His work is currently featured in an exhibition at the Brick Lane Gallery in London. From yesterday (March 3) until March 13, you can see 30 portraits of Manning.

She emphasizes the role of Smile Train in making her work possible. The charity works globally with ‘on the ground’ medical professionals to provide training and funding to perform free cleft surgery and ‘ongoing’ care.

Ian Vallance, Director of Smile Train UK, commented: “We are beyond touched that Katie has chosen to support Smile Train UK through the creation of these portraits.

“As an ambassador for Smile Train UK, Katie also helps raise awareness in such an inspired and creative way. Her collection truly captures the beauty and diversity of smiles, providing a powerful approach to educating and informing others about a slot.

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Christine E. Phillips