Malawi is one of the countries endowed with spirited and creative visual artists.
Despite that art-making can either be a natural gift, a learned skill or a combination of both, it takes perseverance, imagination and a lot of hard work.
However, regardless of the efforts put, the painters frustrations are many and most of the them revolve on the aspect that there are a few locals who appreciate the art of painting.
Regardless of all that, Mandele Junior Mandele is one painter whose delight and passion for art is bigger than the challenges encountered.
With his persistent spirit, the artist has turned into a household name among visual art lovers in the country.
His works, done in a range of media—pastel, oil on canvas or Polyvinly Acetate (PVA)—has a dimensional of style to landscapes and portraits depicting many interesting things in the country.
“Not many people know the value embedded in the art. They look down on art,” he said.
Mandele Junior says that perhaps the myths people have on fine arts should be corrected.
“People have an impression that fine art is a subject that is alien and better understood by foreigners or expatriates,” said the Zomba-based visual artist.
During an interview with On the Arts, Mandele Junior said the response that his work has received has provided the biggest inspiration and it is his wish to sustain it.
“Despite the challenges faced, now all is lost. There are few individuals who are promoting the art by buying the products. I should thank those who appreciate art in the country,” he said.
Speaking on how he is turning imaginations into art, Mandele Junior said he uses sketches and photographs to refine his concepts as art involves interpretation and transformation of stories, ideas and imaginations into visual form.
“You will agree with me that many of us have never seen an angel or Jesus, but an artist somewhere suggested these things to us. But, the picture in my mind will be the image, or imagination. The next step will be to turn imagination into art.
“I often get asked how I continue to find fresh ideas and inspiration for my paintings. Most often I am inspired by nature, colour, light and shadow, patterns, and design. Sometimes I am inspired by another artist, or an abstract painting,” said Mandele who admires artistic works of Ghanaian Lucky D.
But, what does his art involve?
“My work mainly involves designing. I can easily do any kind of design as long as it is about the outlook only. I believe that art is anything to do with designing the outlook, be it fashion, makeup artistry, furniture, culinary art or food art,” he said.
Mandele Junior traces his artistic journey back to 2002 when he was at Police Primary School in Zomba and teachers were entrusting him with drawing work on the chalk board.
However, his creative skills were further sharpened through the continued support and encouragement of his parents and class teachers.
Through experience, Mandele Junior said he has learnt that art is not just about recreating images in the form of a painting or drawing but instead art is about improving the quality of life.
On whether the artistry is promising, he said lack of a readily available market for artworks in Malawi and the fact that visual art is quieter than other forms of arts continue to be the challenges.
“Visual arts is silent. While it is difficult to get fresh audiences, at the same time it is also hard to advertise. Perhaps, this is the reason other forms of art sell better and faster than visual arts,” he said.
Commenting on Mandele Junior’s art exploits, Peter Kaiyatsa, an art enthusiast, said the artist is destined for greater heights. He however urged government to support such artists by facilitating trainings and providing working materials.
“His art has sting and allure. However, government should give such artists loans to boost their talent hence promoting culture and economy for the country,” he said.
Born on November 24 1984, Mandele Junior, a third born in a family of seven, comes from Kampalilo Village in Traditional Authority Chikowi in Zomba.