Beyond the norm
Imaginations are never sold. In that realm of the mind’s eye, people imagine the possibility of the impossible. And those willing to turn their thoughts into reality do not hesitate. Visual artists are not denied the chance to think beyond the usual norm either.
It only started as a dream for one visual artist, Kenneth Namalomba, to live on art. Despite the country’s lack of appreciation for visual art, Namalomba never looked back.
Just last week, Namalomba stirred the people that went to attend a press conference he organised by unveiling his K7.5 million artwork—the first local artwork to be pegged at that price.
To many, this was way too much but, to Namalomba, the painting is extraordinary.
“It’s the first of its kind. It’s the only one painting that can communicate hundreds of ideas at the same time. It’s a priceless piece of art and even the academicians in the field of art have labelled it a true ‘master piece’. So, that proves its value,” he said.
Namalomba said it was too early to conclude whether he had offers for the painting or not.
“It is too early to conclude but there are interested parties,” he said.
But, for a moment, imagine if it were in the United States of America, could that painting last for days hanging on a wall of a showroom instead of someone’s home? Of course not.
For a long time, visual artists have complained about lack of appreciation for visual art in the country. Among other things, they cite price negotiations and lack of markets as drawbacks in their trade.
However, for Namalomba hope is not lost yet because he believes that Malawians have the potential to appreciate art.
“We [artists] just need to take a role in showing them what art is about and the constructive roles it can take [and play] in the society. For that, we need more art events where people can interact and get to understand art even more,” he said.
In an earlier interview with visual artist Theophany Nammero, the artist bemoaned that visual art is not fully appreciated in Malawi.
“Visual art does not get the appreciation it deserves. For instance, Malawians take visual art as something not important, to the extent that they offer very low prices to buy an art piece against the prices the artists themselves offer,” said Nammero.
According to Nammero, a well strategised awareness campaign would be a good stepping stone in raising awareness about visual art in the country.
Another artist, Lawrence Daka, said visual artists have come to think that they cannot make a living out of this profession simply because of the problems the artists face.
“As artists we ask ourselves about who is going to buy? Where are we going to sell our art? This is so because it is hard to find a market for visual art,” said Daka.
Daka said Malawians are biased towards other forms of art such as music, drama and poetry such that this makes it difficult for him as a creative artist to find markets for his products.
“Visual art appreciation should start from the above [government]. It should build national art galleries just like other countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia where different forms of art are be exhibited,” said Daka.
In fact, even though some quarters may treat art as a luxury in the country, Namalomba explained that there is a great population in the country that is surviving on it and the government has a direct duty to protect such artists.
A percentage of profits made by corporations should be allocated to art annually. This will help in the livelihood of these artists. A necessary evil for the greater good, corporations should be able to give back to the society that benefited them,” Namalomba said.
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