UYO, Nigeria (Reuters) - Michael Sunday is delighted, if a little stunned, as he admires his new right hand: a silicone glove-like prosthetic meant to help him return to normal life after he lost three fingers in a car accident a year ago.
The prosthetic has a hyper-realistic feel and, unusually, is dark in color, matching perfectly the tone of Sunday’s skin.
Most fake body parts available in Nigeria until now have been white, or made from materials such as wood that also look unrealistic.
“Wow, this is lovely,” Sunday said, his voice choked with emotion, as he looked at the prosthetic for the first time.
“I have my fingers back,” said the 22-year-old student, who lost the thumb and fourth and fifth fingers on his right hand when the car he was riding in with his parents on Dec. 31, 2018, collided with another vehicle.
The artist behind the creation is John Amanam, a 32-year-old former movie special effects expert. He developed an interest in prosthetics after a family member lost a limb in an accident.
“I became emotional about amputees,” said Amanam, who is also Nigerian.
“They had this feeling of discomfort whenever they were around other people. I saw it as a challenge. If I could give back or solve this need, it would go a long way to ease that emotional trauma and loss of confidence,” he added.
“I just want them to feel at home and be whole, aesthetically.”
So he started making prosthetic fingers, hands, arms, legs and ears in 2017. Depending on the size and complexity of the prosthetic, it takes three weeks to two months to make one.
Amanam has no formal training in making prosthetics but studied sculpting as an art student. The pieces are sold for at least 40,000 naira ($111).
His company, Immortal Cosmetic Art, is part of a growing services industry that has helped Nigeria’s economy become the biggest in Africa.
Amanam said mismatched skin tone makes it more difficult for people to feel confident with their artificial limbs.
To prepare Sunday’s hand, he took measurements, made a plaster cast and mixed paints on a palette, as any artist would, searching for the right skin tone. The result was lifelike.
“You rarely find people with black skin prosthetics,” Amanam said. “I want this need to be met within Africa. I want to reach out to blacks all over the world as well, by making this process accessible, at an affordable rate.”
Sunday, who covers a slight seam between the silicone glove and his forearm with a watch bearing a wide wristband, is certainly a satisfied customer.
“I can go about my normal life without people looking at my hand, without hiding my hands or fear of discrimination or pity,” he said.
Reporting by Seun Sanni and Nneka Chile; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Alexis Akwagyiram and Gareth Jones