Singano: Tracing dad’s steps

Not much can be said about talent in visual arts between 1980 and 1998 without mentioning the late Ellis Singano, a Blantyre-based batik artist.

This is why news that Singano had died at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in February 1998 sent shock waves to the visual arts fraternity which at that time was still establishing itself.

Being one of the best artists at that time, his death meant a lot to the future of the industry as it signalled a new era when his magnificent works would never appear again on art galleries.

Had it not been for pressure from a client who wanted his product finished while the artist was battling for his life in hospital, his talent could have long been gone and forgotten since there was no one in the family to continue the journey.

Fortunately, Singano’s works and name are still on the visual arts market courtesy of one of his sons, Tayamika, who is trying to fit into his father’s big shoes. And if one is not careful enough, one can conclude that the batik artworks under Singano’s name that have been on the market since 1998 were done by the departed artist.

Tayamika took over aged 18 and his first task was to finish an artwork called Animal Spirit for a customer.

At that time, there were also other unfinished works which Tayamika assembled and finished for submission at Central Bookshop where his father used to submit his works.

It was the encouragement he got from these artworks that boosted his talent to be where he is today.

“It is something that just happened by God’s grace. We could have lost my father’s talent by now, but I am proud that the journey is still on. That is why I still use his name, Ellis Singano, as a trade name.

“I want his name and works to remain in the trade as a dedication to his hardworking spirit in visual arts,” says Tayamika who is currently based at Lunzu Township in Blantyre, but has shops in Lilongwe and Blantyre.

So far, the young Singano has been invited to participate at various exhibitions where some of his products have sold like hot cakes. He has also participated in Wild Life and Environmental Society (Wesm) exhibition for 13 times now.

Although without any professional training in the trade, Tayamika has crossed borders with his works.

 He now stands as one of the pillars in visual arts in the country. This is why he has appeared twice on an arts calendar in 2011 and 2012. The first calendar was called Migration whereas this year’s calendar is called Natural Resources. The calendar is sponsored by Goethe Institute, Germany Government and Kamusu Art Gallery.

Tayamika says he is now using various types of soils to produce any colour for a drawing. He boasts that the new style is helping reduce expenses by half.

According to the artist, this is a relief to the industry which has not been spared economic challenges currently rocking the country following the devaluation of the Kwacha.

“I am graduating from using dyes and waxes in my work. These are foreign raw materials and we buy them in foreign currency. We only have one shop in Malawi and they are expensive. To import them is a burden following the recent devaluation of the kwacha,” says Tayamika.

He says using local materials will help burgeoning artists join the trade.

Tayamika says he is yet to call himself the best.

The artist, a twin brother to Emmanuel, says the fact that Malawi has only two galleries is discouraging.

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