Entering Emily Mpulula’s home at Area 47 in Lilongwe, you immediately notice an unbreakable bond that exists between this young woman and art.
Unlike many homes which look completely ‘artificial’ because of the furniture they have, Mpulula’s home is ‘natural’—dominated by items which are made from tree stumps.
Mpulula says: “I’m in love with wood so I want almost every item I use to be made of wood. When I am walking in areas of Lilongwe and see a tree stump my heart beats faster because I quickly think of how I can creatively use this stump to make something for domestic or office use.”
Sitting in the lounge of her house and spreading eyes in both directions, I notice that her television stand, chairs, benches, mirror frame, picture frame, coffee table, chest of drawers, dining sets, dressing table, stools and bowls are all made of tree stump.
Even in her bedroom, she says, her bed is creatively made of a tree stump which was neglected somewhere.
“You can call my home, a stump home,” she says smilingly.
Mpulula makes a living out of tree stumps which she sells to a wide range of customers in Lilongwe.
Currently, she has no shop in the city hence her customers find her at her house. She plans to open a shop in town so that people can access her.
Mpulula—who originally comes from Mpamadzi Village, Traditional Authority Champiti in Ntcheu—says she developed interest in art while in her primary school days in Lilongwe where she grew up.
She enjoyed making drawings hence she is not surprised that she is earning a living out of art.
Mpulula challenges youths to come up with innovative and creative ideas for them to survive amid high unemployment rates.
“There are many things which we can do in as far as art is concerned. Things which we think are useless can bring money for us if we think outside the box. Let us look critically at the things which surround us. There is money inside those things,” she says.
Interestingly, Mpulula did not study arts. She studied information technology (IT) at National College of Information and Technology (Nacit). She employs five people who help in shaping the stumps to the desired form.
As the Internet is becoming part of business life, Mpulula relies on the techonology to search for various designs for her items. As if that is not enough, she also uses the Internet mainly Facebook to advertise her products. She says this has been very effective because it reaches a larger audience even beyond Malawi.
However, lack of tree stumps is one of the challenges she faces in her work.
Mpulula accepts that it is becoming a problem to find tree stumps; hence, she is taking part in tree planting.
“If there are no trees, I cannot do my work. Therefore, I must take part in conservation of the environment such as tree planting. It is my dream that as my company grows I should embark on an initiative to plant trees as part of my corporate social responsibilities,” she says.
Mpulula says she gets a lot of orders for her products, but she sometimes fails to supply because of lack of tree stumps. n