Visual artists Ellis Singano and Panji Tembo on Saturday officially launched their exhibition titled ‘Traditional Tales of Malawi’ at Jacaranda Cultural Centre (JCC) in Blantyre, which had a good turnout.
The exhibition, the first to be held at JCC this year, saw the best of pieces from Tembo telling different stories while Singano, with his specialty in batik, tells folktales from his late father’s book Tales of Old Malawi which was written in 1974.
It’s been sometime since Tembo exhibited his works but he proved on Saturday that his hands still have the magic as he shined brighter with his pieces that had some people asking about his inspiration for the works.
This is also the first exhibition Singano and Tembo have held at JCC.
Singano, who was recently listed by fellow visual artist, Elson Kambalu, as one of the highest selling artists at La Galleria in Lilongwe in 2017, said he was impressed with the turn out during the official opening of the exhibition which will run until next month.
“First of all, let me say I am happy with the support from the people. I should say it here that Malawians are now embracing exhibitions as most of the times foreigners are the ones who show up but it’s a different story now,” Singano said.
He said with the exhibition running up to March, people have all the time to visit JCC and appreciate their works but also the pieces for their homes.
“Those who have missed the official opening can come any time since we have the exhibition running until March. The entry is free but the pieces are on sale,” he said.
Singano last year exhibited his works themed ‘Turning the Tables’ at the same venue where he sold eight batiks on the opening day.
In 2016, Singano also exhibited 30 batiks which run under the theme ‘Journey through the light’ at the same venue.
“I would like to thank Jacaranda Cultural Centre for giving me and Panji Tembo an opportunity to showcase our works. Again I would like to thank them for giving artists a platform to showcase their works at the centre,” Singano said.
On his exhibition of works in his father’s book Tales of Old Malawi, the soft-spoken artist said:
“This book was written by my father in 1974 and it has 38 folktales but I have only managed to come up with 15 for now. You cannot find this book on the market now and this is why I thought of putting it back in the public arena through my works,” he said.
Singano said he thought of doing a joint exhibition with Tembo after noticing that culture is being neglected and that technology is taking over.
“There is a problem of reading culture. People are lazy to read nowadays and so I thought I should have my father’s book of folktales told in my works,” he said.
Singano also hinted that he wants to put the book back on the market but will breathe in life with his illustrations.
“The book will not be ready now because I need time but hopefully by next year it will be done,” the artist, said.
Tembo said it felt a sense of fulfillment holding a joint exhibition with Singano.
“The connection and inspiration was all there especially when people patronise the exhibition and so you can see a sense of fulfillment,” Tembo said.
On his works, Tembo said:
“ Through the works I am talking about the stage of transition that society is never in transit, where it began from, what are they talking about and which direction we are moving into. In the pictures there is the beauty of colour, shape and arrangement of figures.”
He said that in the beauty of the works there is a story which people in the village tell or what concerns them or what inspires them to move on.
“They will be smiling but will tell you a story that is challenging and you can appreciate their struggles in life and you can see the real human,” Tembo said.
He said that on the traditional perspective, he is trying to appreciate people’s way of life in that you can appreciate their challenges and stories Tembo described his artistry as seasonal but was quick to point out that he will be bringing out more to connect with the community.
“I am looking at putting up my own permanent studio or gallery just to reach out to the community but I am happy with the support,” he said.
Tembo called upon institutions to support the creative industry just as JCC has opened up to artists.
“We need more purple institutions that can bring positive energy that connects people together,” Tembo said.
JCC and Maison de la France Deputy Director, Daisy Belfield, said they were satisfied with the turnout, being the first exhibition.
“This is the first exhibition, looking deeply into some of the folktales of Malawi. This is amazing work by Ellis and Panji. We will continue to give a platform to artists in the country,” Belfield said.
She further said that the country has massive talent.
“There is a lot of talent in the country and that is seen through the good pieces of artworks today. There is a lot of talent in Blantyre,” she said.
Belfield said JCC has lined up several activities this year.
“We also have started film screenings every Thursday. There is a lot that we have lined up including art classes which will be running for free during weekends for both amateur and professional spearheaded by a German artist,” she said.