Portraits go a long way in promoting cultural identities and they tell beautiful stories of our livelihoods as well as the environment we live in.
Being able to identify and clarify specific cultural perspectives that provide particular meanings that have occurred in people’s lives can be difficult, but that is what a young woman Thoko Hendrina Chibambo has managed to master.
The former banker and now entrepreneur never dreamed she could capture cultural images through portraits or do portraits to communicate cultural identities.
But with her camera, Chibambo has captured several aspects of Malawian cultures in beautiful portraits.
Through her many works, she has managed to capture emotional stories of life in Malawi.
Some of her portraits reflect the daily struggles women go through when cooking, capturing intoxicating streets, the country’s number one mode of transport and many interesting stories and sceneries that reflect Malawi as a country.
“The concept of portraits came in 2008 when I was involved in a modelling career. As a model, I was exposed to the camera and began to understand the power of the camera. As I travelled across Malawi, I realised and appreciated beautiful aspects of my country, which seems to be unknown to many citizens of Malawi and visitors. I started taking pictures, “ said Chibambo.
Gradually, it dawned on her that she can best preserve and promote the beauty of culture in potraits
“Portraits offer a new perspective. I think portraits are one way of stimulating interest among tourists on the beauty of our country both locally and internationally,” Chibambo told On the Arts.
She worked for five years as a banker but realised that was not what she wanted to do in her life.
She said: “I worked in the banking industry because that is what my mum wanted. But my passion to be an entrepreneur exceeded that and I resigned to pursue my dream.
“ As I engaged in several business ventures, which involved buying items and selling them locally, I thought that I could do well by creating my own products and selling them locally and abroad; hence, creating my company Portraits In Cultural Images.”
She is looking forward to expanding her business by offering her portraits to hotels, restaurants, offices and homes, to adorn spaces with beautiful images.
“I am looking forward to expanding my reach in the hospitality industry by promoting Malawi culture through these portraits. The hospitality industry also have online platforms that they need to fill with beautiful things and I am working hard to ensure that my work gets to beautify these spaces,” said Chibambo.
Through her travels both domestically and internationally, She carries her camera to take pictures of interesting things and sites.
Said Chibambo: “Apart from it being a business, it is also about promoting other businesses as well. I engage with business owners in an informal way and show them my work and discuss how I can help them attract more clients with stunning photos. Some people want visuals rather than explanation.”
However, she realises than many clients like outdoor or location shoots and she has specialised in these areas to capture moments, scenes, daily struggles, nature and many other intriguing sites. The main reason for her photography, according to her, is her love of it and she enjoys every single day at work, polishing her skills and learning about human nature.
“I am proud of my country and I am committed to its future. Malawi is very important to me. I am hoping that what I am doing can inspire the young generation to create within them a desire to do something for themselves,” said Chibambo.
She is also a strong advocate of Buy Malawi campaign.
“Malawi is a very beautiful country and we don’t need to buy portraits to adorn our homes or offices from other countries ,” reasoned Chibambo.
She also produces postcards with pictures depicting the many stories of Malawian lives.
Some of the people who sampled her work bear witness to its quality.
“These are actually good portraits dipicting a typical village scenario. She has an eye for detail,” said Mary Disi.
She said such pictures are usually taken for granted as many do not think of preserving such moments.