Along the M1 Road from Blantyre going towards Chileka Roundabout, as one approaches Dorvic Hotel, one cannot help noticing the artistic expressions of animal artifacts such as giraffes and zebras.
The animal artifacts, in different sizes and shapes, are so colourful that they attract the attention of passers-by and onlookers.
Behind the colourful works of art is 34-year-old Mwenda Kazembe, a self taught artist.
“I started getting interested in art while at nursery school. We were using crayons and water colours to express ourselves,” says Kazembe.
He adds that at this stage he discovered that he was one exceptional student and that he liked Art and Craft as a subject.
“I liked art so much that I kept practising while at home. Throughout my primary and secondary school years, I kept practicing and enjoying colour mixing and painting but I never looked at it as a career,” the artist explains.
However, as life would have it, he found himself with no job and in need of money. That is when he remembered his love for painting.
“I started approaching shop and grocery owners to paint their shops and add some art works. In our arts world we call that sun lighting,” Kazembe discloses.
The painter explains that as he gained a reputation for being an expert in sun-lighting on shops and groceries, he started getting demands to paint buildings.
Kazembe then sought the help of other painters who taught him the art of painting.
“As I am right now I am a painter. But I decided to give myself some uniqueness hence my venturing into animal artifacts,” he says.
He explains that no one taught him the art but he taught himself by buying books about art to read and study the works of others.
“I have taken my time to master the art of making animal artifacts. I make zebras, giraffes among others. I also make water fountains,” says Kazembe.
Among the list of his clientele are lodge, home and office owners who want to add a touch of class to their places.
“Whether indoors or outdoors, I make these animal artifacts according to customers’ needs and specifications,” he said.
After shaping the animal, Kazembe uses sand, cement, wire and metal mesh to make the animal statues before adding a touch of colour.
The painter says for the smallest animal artifact he uses 25kilogrammes (kgs) of cement and 25kgs of sand.
To produce large animal artifacts, he uses 50kgs of cement, 50kgs of sand, wire and mesh.
The artifacts are sell like hot cakes. The smaller artifacts sell at K40 000 each while for big artifacts sell at K150 000 each.
“Most of the time, I start making artifacts once I get an order. Without orders I do not start making them,” he explains.
Kazembe says although many Malawians admire his works when passing by, many are afraid to even check our prices. We are actually cheap and can even sell on lay-by.
“These animal statues add colour to a home, be it indoors or outdoors. They are not only for the lodges and offices. Malawians should embrace the art of beautifying homes with such things,” added the self-taught artist.
Apart from the animal artifacts, the artist also makes flower pots.
“These flower pots though colourful are affordable. We want Malawians homes to have such flower pots that add colour to the homes. My work is to make sure homes and offices look colourful and beautiful,” he says
Kazembe explains that his plan is to open a shop in Blantyre where he can improve his art and be a better artist.
He, however, says if his plans do not pan out, he may trek to South Africa and ply his trade there.
“I feel Malawians just admire my work but they do not buy as much as they should. If things do not change I might migrate to South Africa and ply my trade there,” he said.
At the time of the interview Kazembe was finalising working on a giraffe artifact which he said had been ordered by a client in Blantyre.
“The owner wants to put it at the entrance of his home,” he discloses.
As the interview came to an end, two women passing by stopped and asked for the flower pots charges.
“I did not realise they are so affordable. I had a feeling they are not for the ordinary people like me.
“These pots are so beautiful,” said one of the ladies who only identified herself as Rosemary.
Kazembe supports himself and his family through the trade and employees five other young men he trained himself over the years.