She may be Lucius Banda’s daughter, but Laura Banda is charting her own path, albeit not too far from the tree where the seed fell.
The 21-year-old has embarked on a passionate love affair with the paint brush, stroking pieces of art with a patient but persevering boldness that she could only have inherited from one source—her father, the musical icon whose 30-year career has helped define Malawi music in its current state.
Laura’s earlier attempt to verify if she had inherited her father’s musical prowess came to naught.
“That attempt made me realise that some of us were just given the voice to communicate and sing in the shower. I always wish I had a singing voice but I appreciate my gift nonetheless because these both bring a smile of people’s faces which is enough for me,” she tells Society.
But she says she derives her inspiration from bringing joy to her customers the same way Lucius enjoys entertaining his legion of fans.
“I’ve dealt with my mother as a client and when I showed her the work that she had requested this one time, she merrily danced and hugged me which is what someone listening to a beautiful melody would do. So, I feel like we connect to our different audiences the same way bringing joy which I’m very much content with.”
Music runs deep in the household. Laura’s sibling, Johnny as well as adopted brother Friday are already stage names with Zembani Band, both of them playing alongside their dad on countrywide tours. The youngest, Mapiri, is not too far behind. He is a constant figure at his father’s shows.
But although Lucius was surprised by his daughters diversion, he was not disappointed.
“He asked a lot of why’s…but he was never disappointed. One would say he was a lot proud because I did something unique and being self-taught made him wonder how I developed a knack for art. I am glad he accepted that I was this kind of artist just as well as he would have if I had the singing talent,” she says.
But why and how did a music icon’s daughter end up with a paint brush instead of a microphone in her hand?
Laura says she has always sketched and coloured and remembers her mother numbering the pages in her notebooks to stop her ripping them out to draw and colour.
“The hobby went on for a while until she got me my own sketchbook and that was when it all rocket-shipped. I did it often for fun and out of boredom until one day in 2016, I found an empty wine bottle and acrylic paint, which got me curious ‘what if I painted the bottle?’ So, I did and, to my surprise, a friend of mine loved it so much he offered to buy the work and that was when I knew I could make something out of this little thing. I made one more piece which led to the creation of another,” she says.
Laura, a purchasing and supply student at the Polytechnic, says painting came naturally to her.
“Painting requires a steady hand, a focused mind and precision; I have these qualities when it comes to making an art piece. But truthfully, what drove me to pursue it was the way people’s faces light up when I make a piece that they truly love and connect with. It sounds cheesy but that smile and adoration is priceless.”
And for the artist, painting for her feels like a way to vent and relieve herself.
“I went deeper into it because it’s cheaper than therapy. Painting for me is just fun and therapeutic and I would like to achieve a lot more and share my gift worldwide,” she says.
Laura counts her mother and mentor as her strongest pillars.
“My biggest supporters are my mother and my mentor Jonathan who owns Art of Jona. They’ve believed in me so much that it has pushed me into wanting to do more to achieve greater things. When I look at Michelangelo’s work and Picasso, Da Vinci and many more, their greatness is frightening and that’s enough to make one give up but these two have used the same fear and turned it around to help motivate me. I’ve seen the look of unquestionable belief in my mother’s eyes countless times and that was enough to get me on my canvas again and again taking up challenges I thought I’d fail,” she says.
Laura is one a handful of female artists on the local scene and she believes growing artistically involves a whole load of tenacity which women usually lose because of the fear pf being judged.
“The Malawian culture looks at art as something a boy should do and if you’re not around people that think otherwise your gift dies out because art gets better as you practice and if your heart isn’t into it you let it go easily,” she says. n