By Aisha Amidu:
Seeing Mzati Arts’ paintings one cannot believe that they are 100 percent handiwork.
Their portraits are of high quality even though the painters have never attended any school of art.
Mzati Arts firm comprises two University of Malawi (Unima) graduates who diverted from what they studied in college to do arts and craft after observing that there was greener pasture in the arts.
Charles Kayenda and his friend Lovemore Mponda had passion for art and craft when they were in primary school.
However, the dream died when they went to St Pious Secondary School where they were introduced to new subjects.
From St Pious, Charles was enrolled at Unima’s The Polytechnic to study Physical Planning while his friend went to Chancellor College for a different programme. They both graduated in 2018.
Upon graduating, Charles was employed at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) organisation where he reached his turning point.
“Life was not easy in the industry and this widened my eyes. All along, I had been thinking that having a degree from a reputable university is the key to good life,” Charles says.
He adds that the reality on the job market opened his eyes and mind to start thinking outside the box.
“I realised that having a degree should not restrict one from doing other things not related to the programme they studied in college.
“The degree is there to open doors that are not reachable due to lack of knowledge and not for people to cling on to them as the degree itself cannot bring money but efforts that one invest in it,” Charles says.
Throughout his life, Charles, who is now the acting Chief Executive Officer for Mzati Arts, says he had been dreaming of becoming an employer but the dream died when he joined Unima.
“Searching for a job was not easy; I worked for few organisations until my contract was terminated. I was shuttered.
“It is at this point that I revived my dreams. I reunited with Lovemore to utilise our long forgotten talent –painting,” he says.
Luckily, people started recognising them, locally and internationally.
Annie Marrie from England praises Mzati Arts for the painting she received from her husband as a birthday gift. The husband had her portrait painted when he toured Mulanje Mountain.
“Since I got married, my husband has been giving me cakes and flowers as my birthday presents which could not last long.
“Therefore, I consider this painting as the most precious gift because it will last till we grow old together,” Marrie says.
Lilongwe-based Fatson Lezala, who had his family portrait done by Mzati Arts, says he was amused with the quality of the painting.
“It [quality] was beyond my expectation. These guys are amazing,” he says.
To this effect, Lezala says there is need for the government to find ways of promoting such artists as they can help to put Malawi on the map.
“[The] Government should find a way of promoting these painters because their work can attract tourists who come with forex into the country,” he says.
However, Charles’ colleague, Lovemore, bemoans that, generally, Malawians do not appreciate art though it defines their culture.
“So far, I have not seen any measures put in place to develop the painting sector though it can bring a lot of money if taken seriously.
“It is for this reason that most Malawians do not value paintings they receive as gifts from friends and loved ones though paintings carry deep meanings,” Lovemore says.
Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture spokesperson, Symon Mbvundula, lauds Mzati Arts’ work.
“Their work is fantastic. It is exciting to see such creative youth making a living out of arts.
“It is pleasing to see graduates exploring various ways to create jobs for themselves and others,” Mbundula says.—Mana