Dicley Ntiya: Harnessing nature, living art
The use of natural resources to earn a living is common place, but stories of success from such ventures are as scarce as an eclipse of the moon.
No wonder then that, for a long time, people such as musicians, visual artists and actors have been complaining about market opportunities and people’s lack of interest in their artworks.
But Dicley Ntiya, one of the talented sculptors in the country, can claim that complaints are not part of his daily routine because he uses his flair as a money-making machine.
Ntiya, who started his journey in 2006, established himself in the industry after Nanzikambe Arts Organisation approached him to mould 36 coated masks for their play ‘Little Prince’, which they staged in the same year.
“I was not a serious sculptor then because I never thought that I could make a living out of my talent. So, when Nanzikambe Arts approached me, I realised that I could set up a business,” Ntiya said.
From that time, Ntiya said they made him their consultant. As a result, whenever the organisation plans to stage a production that requires sculpture they hire him.
Currently, Ntiya owns a showroom called Dicley Artistic Designer in Naperi, Blantyre, where he showcases his artwork.
However, production is done at his house in Bangwe Township.
But Ntiya is so multi-talented that he is also engaged in architecture and designs water fountains, fish ponds, and garden bridges, among other creative designs.
“I usually create the designs and sometimes I look for new designs on the market from the internet. In other cases, my customers tell me what type of designs they are looking for,” he said.
However, Ntiya argued that finding a market for his artwork is always a tiresome task.
“Most Malawians have the mentality that art is very cheap, unlike Europeans who appreciate it and are more likely than Malawians to buy my work without price negotiations. Whenever you inform a Malawian customer about the price of an artwork they would like to buy, they complain to the extent that I refuse some offers,” he said.
Ntiya said that this takes him back but since it is an in-born talent he just endures.
“Had it been that I had another talent which I could have been using to make a living, I could have changed my career but, since I don’t, I just hang on because I believe that people will come to appreciate art with time,” he said.
Ntiya also pointed out that Visual Arts Association of Malawi (VAAM) is only concerned with the welfare of painters.
“You find that whenever there is an art exhibition, we are not given space to showcase our artwork and this disturbs me a lot since it’s a place where my work could get known and I could, therefore, widen my market,” he said.
Moreover, Ntiya noted that there is no art gallery for sculpture and, in most cases, sculptors struggle to get their artworks known.
“The only place I use to showcase my work is my showroom. However, it is far away from town where people regularly visit. I believe that if my showroom was close to town, I could have been able to attract a lot of customers,” he said.
Ntiya urged the government to step in and bail artists out.
“The government is supposed to help us by building a public art gallery where we can showcase our work but that is not the case. Sculptors cannot manage to build galleries on their own,” he said.
Ntiyasaid that there are a lot of sculptors out there who are talented and could come up with very creative artwork, but said this can be done once the artists are granted a platform.
For the time being, that platform exists mainly in the artist’s mind, and not on the ground.
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