‘A cartoonist is rarely on holiday’

Renowned newspaper cartoonist Haswell Kunyenje is holding a month-long art exhibition at Jacaranda Cultural Centre (JCC) in Blantyre. The exhibition has featured portraits of 25 public figures drawn from various sectors such as politics, music, culture and business, among others. Our Staff Reporter BRIAN ITAI caught up with him to get more details about the exhibition and other things. Excerpts:

Kunyenje: The industry is still very small

Q

: Who is Haswell Kunyenje?

A

: He is a Malawian artist who currently works as cartoonist for Times Group.

Q

: How old are you?

A

: (Chuckles) I am above 40.

Q

: How has it been working as a cartoonist?

A

: I would say it has been a journey which has been exciting and challenging at the same time. And if you ask me I would not really pick any moment that I would pick out as the most stand out one for me. But for the fact that I have been there this long, to me that is a special honour.

Q

: Having stayed in this trade for some time, what would you say has been your biggest inspiration?

A

: Coming down at work every day and trying to create something which is different from what you did already comes with some positive adrenalin. The fight that you have to go through in trying to weave these creations in your mind is the one which pushes you. So, when you eventually manage to create something unique using your imagination and that work is able to communicate to people and entertain them, that is the biggest inspiration an artist can get.

Q

: In your day as a cartoonist, what are the challenges that you face?

A

: Our job is very demanding. A cartoonist is rarely on holiday. Even if he is but wherever he is he is still working. We do not rest. It is not the kind of job whereby you will say I can be out of the office for a week and somebody will step in for me and carry on with your work.

Q

: Do you ever encounter moments when you feel your creative juices are dry and you cannot crack it anymore?

A

: Very much. There are times when you feel so exhausted that you feel like you cannot completely move it. You feel the burnout eating away your creative instincts.

Q

: From the time you started out in this trade, what are some of the strides that have been made within the cartoon landscape?

A

: In as much as the changes are there, it would be hard to point out at what has changed really. We are still limited in many aspects. The industry is still very small. Our biggest problem is the lack of schools which are specifically for this type of art. Everybody is trying to learn from himself and improve on his own. Despite the talent and interest but there is no formal education which is offered. Apart from learning from what your friends are doing the rest is self-education.

Q

: What is the purpose of the art exhibition that you are having at the moment?

A

: My intention was to recognise and appreciate some people who have inspired the nation, who have inspired people and who have helped change the narrative. It was my attempt to show my respect to them in an artistic and unique way.

Q

: As an artist, where do you want to see yourself in the next five years?

A

: Looking at where I am, I want to dedicate my time in training young artists. In my course of work, I come in contact with a lot of young aspiring artists who really need training and some just a bit of polishing up. I am growing up, I should therefore prepare that one day I will not be there. I will best be remembered for what I will leave behind. n

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