Power of art as seen in ‘Free the Witch Hunter: The Audio Saga’
An art exhibition at Jacaranda Cultural Centre (JCC) in Blantyre themed ‘The Beauty in Art’ featuring six visual artists brought to the spotlight the works of Ronald Banda.
Not a big name in the visual arts domain but one of his pieces titled ‘Free the Witch Hunter: The Audio Saga’ attracted interest on social media platforms particularly Facebook, largely owing to the fact that the painting has a portrait of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director Martha Chizuma deepened with other elements.
Chizuma as head of ACB has been in the limelight in the fight against corruption, which continues to destroy the image of Malawi.
Apart from offering entertainment, which is one of the attributes of art, it is also there to be used as a vehicle for tackling issues affecting society in order to bring about change.
Banda’s prima facie masterpiece is a political satire depicting the political tension surrounding the subject.
“The piece therefore speaks for itself, if one lives in Malawi and is an aficionado of news and current affairs. While mystery lies in the eyes of those who are curious and would love to know more about the artwork, apart from object gestures, the piece uses different colours to represent particular aspects, primal and deep as involved with the issues therein,” the artist said.
He explains that the chief colours of the issue are black, red and green which stand for the literal setting of the issue.
“Black and gray emphasize darkness, wickedness, mystery and anonymity. All bodily colours used on the foreground’s focal point, being the face, are semi-realistic, which represents reality as is seen on a day-to-day basis or in real life,” Banda said.
There are also various translucent, foggy and mystic hands in the painting which Banda said represents conspiracy, greed and all vices of corruption and further, their effort blends with the biggest hand covering the mouth as it illustrates the ironic efforts of mysterious subject attempting to fight corruption yet burning to stop the witch hunter.
Meanwhile, flags of two overseas countries in the artwork represent the donor community, which is seen to intervene in the commotion as the main hand begins to fade, hence its translucence/low opacity.
In addition, Banda talks of the purple in the background of the piece, which he said represents the feminist theory as far as one may relate it to the storyline and may further imply how women are treated in the modern socio-legal and political world when it comes to leadership.
“The red jacket represents the dangers and risks contained in the subject position. The classic telephone has been inserted to add drama and humour to the piece, it is being imposed on the shoulder of the subject by a wicked hand and is leaking mysterious contents to foul the subject,” Banda said.
He said that the original artwork is a friendly expression of contemporary events and that it does not target to offend any persons who may fit into the picture.
The 28-year old visual artist, who began his art at a tender age after being inspired by what he describes as casual drawings of ‘ninjas’ and soldiers crafted by his relations Audrey Kamwendo and Mc Ewen Champiti, said he has over the years developed a deep passion for visual art and that he has moved out of the box to use the power of art to bring about change.
“My art has moved in steps, starting when I was young and then in primary school and growing up, my mother was supportive of my passion and she always made sure she bought me colour pencils, crayons and other drawing materials,” he added.
During his primary and secondary school studies, Banda enjoyed assisting teachers to draw aid diagrams for teaching.
“In secondary school, my friends, who used to write short stories and poems which they pasted on the noticeboard, also used to benefit from my talent,” he said.
But after secondary education, Banda neglected his talent because, to him back then, it did not appear lucrative enough.
He went on to pursue his tertiary education in paralegal and diploma in law at Staff Development Institute in Mpemba, where he developed his passion for law and human rights.
But in 2018, due to financial challenges, he could not afford to continue his studies and it was then that he remembered his pencil and began to redevelop his passion and he started participating in art exhibitions, with his first art exhibition at Kwa Haraba Art Gallery in Blantyre.
“By the grace of God, through art I ended up connecting with people, who offered me a job at a law firm and so, I was able to pay for my fees and at the same time I continued to earn small income through commissioned portraits,” he said.
In 2022, Banda decided to dedicate the year to art and build it as an independent source of income while at the same time also using it as a vehicle to tackle issues affecting society.
While entertainment has taken a huge chunk as regards art, things are slowly drifting as many creatives are using their artistry to bring about change.
For Banda, art is powerful and it needs to be utilised fully in the development of the country and it is in this vein that he has developed a patriotic mindset, protecting nature and motivating young artists to be extra creative to combat problems facing Malawi through not only painting on canvas or drawing pencil portraits but also utilising their creativity for innovative ideas in industrial development, in line with the 2063 agenda.
He gives an example of the piece ‘Free the Witch Hunter: The Audio Saga’ which he said is a beautiful piece of art but also powerful in terms of its message in the fight against corruption.
And still pursuing his dream of becoming a lawyer, Banda said his passion branches towards combining law and art to communicate and help address certain issues of the social legal aspect towards development of the country.