Inspired by works of renowned artist Vincent Van Gogh, Malawi’s Bruno Matumbi has ventured into a type of art that most Malawians would look at with a frown – nude art.
Since nudity is often associated with secrecy and it is always shown behind closed doors or perhaps occasionally, Malawi’s art industry was recently taken by storm with an exhibition by artists whose centrepiece was nudity.
Matumbi, a lawyer by profession, explains his interest in nude art as a way of going back to the basics of human existence and because, for him, art is an emancipation that is symbolised by the removal of all the things that make human beings who they are not.
“Nude art is a form of art just like wildlife and landscape. I find that human beings have become more the clothes they wear and less the soul they have. We can live in bliss without clothes we wear and which cause wars in terms of race, sex and tribe, among other things.
“These divisions are the major causes of wars on the planet. So, my interest in nude art is an aspiration that one day we shall all strip off the clothes which have brought us so much misery and chaos and that we shall be in eternal liberty,” said Matumbi.
The Zomba-born artist realised he could do some art when he was in primary school, about Standard Six. The art he was doing was simple wildlife with crayons his mother used to buy for him.
“At that time, my elder brother Emillio was doing art and would bring art books home. I remember one time he brought a book about Vincent Van Gogh. I got fascinated by the difficult ease with which the paintings of the artist seemed to have been painted. One day, I painted a nude and hid it. My father somehow stumbled upon it and he said ‘this is good art’,” he said.
Matumbi said from there, he started experimenting with different media like water, pastels and oil and the art got serious when he was in college as he started doing cubist and other types of abstract art.
“I think I now lean towards abstract expressionism,” he said.
Matumbi describes himself as an artist who paints through his feelings rather than thoughts as he feels a thought can be very organised and follow the established course of things and, in the end, keep people in a box or force them to live a lie.
“On the other hand, feelings can be and usually are, all over the place, and often jumping from high to low, hot to cold, sad to happy. In this way, our feelings set us free. Feelings never lie. Feelings are the truth. They let us be free to be one and free to be whole.
“In any case, we, as human beings, are always in a state of emotions. Emotions connect us to each other while our thoughts divide us and keep us separate from each other. When I paint, I let go of my thoughts and let the emotion drip though the brush on to the canvass/paper. And I suppose this is why my art is mostly abstract,” he said.