False arms and legs thrill primary school pupils

One of the pupils with a prosthetic finger. Photograph by Julia Vogado
One of the pupils with a prosthetic finger. Photograph by Julia Vogado

A collection of false arms and legs may seem a bizarre focus for a school project ... but perhaps an appropriate one in Halloween week.

The bespoke limbs certainly thrilled pupils of Firle Primary School, near Lewes.

They were brought along by the internationally renowned artist Sophie de Oliveira Barata, whose visit was part of the school’s new ‘This is Me!’ project, which promotes Firle’s ethos of ‘achieve, believe and celebrate’.

Sophie runs a studio in Lewes where she creates both realistic and wild-looking ‘unreal or surreal’ limbs for amputees.  Her job is not just to provide prosthetics, but confidence and individuality.  

She told the children: “Some people don’t want to stand out if they’re missing a limb; they’re worried people will point and stare, which is a shame, because everyone’s different anyway, aren’t they?”

Sophie has designed a bejewelled leg containing speakers, a leg that lit up ‘and could illuminate an entire room’, a forearm with a snake coiling round it, and another full of secret storage compartments.  

She has produced work for singers, actors and dancers and, of course, army veterans “who wear their new limbs like a badge of honour”.   

The artist said: “Achievement is about following your passion and individuality.” 

Her talk delighted pupils and teachers alike.  To show how difficult it is to make false limbs with the right skin colour, she made everyone hold one of their hands in the air for three minutes, then compare it to their other hand.  

The room erupted in amazement ... the effect is due simply to the change in circulation, she explained.

Vicki Brown, Head of School at Firle, said: “This talk is part of our ‘This is Me!’ project to encourage emotional awareness, inclusivity and creativity, so that the children can all achieve their full potential.”   

“Can you make me an arm with wings that fly?” asked pupil Sally, six.

“That’s why I’m here today!” replied Sophie, founder of The Alternative Limb Project.