Born with deformed legs, Blessing Fire started using a wheelchair at a young age, with little hope of ever walking. His fighting spirit and determination pushed him to defy the odds, challenging himself to walk and dance – using his arms and hands. This is Africa caught up with this inspirational man to hear his story.
Blessing Fire, aka Christyles, is a B-Boy dancer living with a disability. The Zimbabwean has gone on to live a remarkable and inspirational life, proving that “disability does not mean inability”.
Blessing struggled with his balance and could not walk long distances. He used a wheelchair for most of his schooling years. In the 1990s, in his early childhood, most buildings in Zimbabwe did not have any facilities or ramps for the disabled. Blessing’s school was no different and he found it difficult to navigate the school buildings and to access services such as public transport.
These challenges pushed Blessing to use his arms more. He started practising hand stands and walking on his hands, allowing him to gain upper body strength. He watched gymnasts perform, which further motivated him to do different moves on his hands. At this point he had not realised yet that he was a dancer.
“In 2005, a dance movie called You Got Served came out and a lot of guys were practising breakdancing. A group of guys who were dancing with my brother identified what I was doing and said it was something called ‘B-Boying’,” Blessing recalls.
It is then that he realised he had natural dancing talent. With the already advanced use of his arms and his interest in gymnastic movements, Blessing increased his training as a B-Boy and breakdancer – and he ditched his wheelchair.
“That’s how I became a dancer and that’s how I ended up not using a wheelchair – through dance workouts and practice,” he says.
Since then, Blessing has been travelling the world, taking part in dance competitions. The first major dance competition he participated in was Undisputed Dance Battle, which his crew won. They then took first place in Zimbabwe’s biggest urban dance competition, the Jibilika Dance Festival. In 2009 he represented Zimbabwe at the Battle of the Year Africa in Cape Town, South Africa.
Dance has become his life. Blessing has been organising dance competitions and is now the creative director of Jibilika Dance Trust, a non-profit organisation that works with young people to empower them through the arts.