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Dealing with scarcity of paint

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CREATIVE — Missi makes paint using locally available materials

For a long time, visual artists in the country have bemoaned the scarcity of some of the materials they use in drawing to produce finest artworks and this includes paint.

Paint is key for artists and they cannot do without it. For one to come up with good drawings or artworks, then paint stands out as one of the important ingredients.

But for one to get good paint, it is a challenge not only in the country but in other countries as well and this in most cases compels artists to raise prices of their artworks because they spend a lot in buying paint.

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While some shops sell paint in the country which is mostly used by visual artists, most of it is bought from outside the country.

A lot of visual artists have failed to make progress in their projects simply because they cannot access good and better paints in the country.

It is in this vein that some players in the industry have been trying their level best to find ways on how this paint can be made accessible in the country.

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During a Cultural Indaba held at University of Malawi – Chancellor College in Zomba two years ago, visual artists held a session where they explored a simple way of making artworks using readily available materials.

This session was aimed at running away from the use of paints which are scarce and expensive in the country.

Renowned artists such as Ellis Singano, who specialises in batik works and Eva Chikabadwa, who is a fine art lecturer were part of the project and they ended up using soil to produce different artworks.

Andrew Missi is one of the veteran visual artists in the country, who has been on the ground trying to find proper channels to make paint and help solve the problem of scarcity of paint used by visual artists.

Having produced a lot of amazing artists, some of which have ended up doing well during exhibitions both local and international, he has gained enough knowledge to go on a paint making venture using locally available materials.

Missi said from the process he undertook on the paint making project, the results are positive and he is looking forward to rolling out.

“This paint, I am making it using soils, rocks and burnt bricks and there are actually different colours,” he said.

Although he has not yet started using them, Missi, said all was good to have the paint on the market.

“I haven’t yet started using them. After this process, I am looking at making them to be coloured powder and then from that mixing them with binders to make them to be real paint,” he said.

He said the whole process was on a testing phase now and that next month he was looking at buying linseed oil for oil paints, emulsion for acrylic paint and gum Arabic for water colours and pastel.

“There is progress and once all this is done I will start using it for wonderful paintings,” Missi said.

He described it as good quality paint which will be different from those which are in the country.

“This is something made manually and in most cases things made manually are stronger than those produced by machines. The only challenge probably is that you fall short when it comes to producing in large quantities. This is all about making sure that we make good artworks/paintings in any painting techniques without limitations,” he said.

The Blantyre based visual artist also said that the paint will help solve the country’s artist’s problem of paints.

“It is not only paint which is expensive but lots of other art materials. Through this project, I want Malawians to realise that we can produce everything here as long as we work hard and try to dig deeper into things. We should not only look at importing things whilst we have resources we can use in making different things,” Missi said.

He said the country needs to be on its toes and safeguard some of its precious resources.

“We have lost some of the resources because we are failing to utilise them. This is not a problem for Malawi only but the African continent. People are coming from outside and steal these resources and in turn they bring them back after the final product and sell them to us. We need to work up from our slumber otherwise we will continue living in abject poverty,” he said.

Missi was born in 1964 in Blantyre where he started drawing at the age of 11 at Makata Primary School.

He was inspired in the trade by the late Brian Hara’s illustrations in magazines, books and newspapers.

After his education, Missi pushed himself to learn painting from a professional sign writer before he later joined Blantyre Art Group where he attended art demonstrations and annual art exhibitions at French Cultural Centre now Blantyre Cultural Centre and Ryalls Hotel.

“These were important platforms where I ended up meeting professional painters who helped me a lot as far as art growth is concerned. I ended up learning the techniques of art and even managed to borrow art books from some artists,” Missi said.

He said it was through his reading of art books that he got more insight on art.

“These books were also key as far as knowledge of art is concerned because after reading them, I used to practice and eventually I built myself into a fine artist. This also pushed me to start holding exhibitions,” the soft spoken visual artist, said.

Over the years, Missi has participated in a number of exhibitions having joined Visual Arts Association of Malawi (Vaam) as a member.

Not wanting to be left behind and also seek to expand his base as well as advance his skills, Missi made another move and this time pursuing art at Chancellor College in Zomba in 1996.

“My journey to Chancellor College followed extensive art works which I ended and so my journey in art has come from afar and it is not only about just doing art for art’s sake but I am passionate about it and I have loved it since I was young,” he said.

In order to help in nurturing talent but also training others, Missi has been teaching fine art in different places including at Nsagas.

“I have also taught at Ayise for two months and so you can see that art for me is something big and I would want to train more artists with a target for young people,” Missi said.

The veteran visual artist paints landscapes, portraits and abstracts in oil and acrylic.

A first born in a family of six children, Missi, said art chose him to be a professional artist before going to school to advance his skills.

“I have so many success stories in the arts but the most important success story is the one I am making paint and I am optimistic it will materialise,” he said.

Missi was one of the judges in the Tikonzekere Art competition and has also taught art at Jacaranda Cultural Centre in Blantyre.

Other platforms the veteran artist has exhibited his works include Wesm in 2019. During the Wesm Art Festival, Missi, was also one of the facilitators during a workshop where he took artists on the subject of water colour painting.

Some of his works are sold in galleries such as Lacaverna and Ka Haraba Art in Blantyre.

For Missi, there is more to offer to the creative industry from him apart from his artworks and he is determined to have his own paint made from locally available materials such as soil.

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