He was trained as a clinical officer. At least, Kas Mdoka’s learned the art of transforming the sick on their sickbeds to attain bubbling and beautiful health.
Yet, Mdoka, had an innate calling that was goading him towards a seemingly different route. And this is the road he took. He repudiated stethoscopes and syringes to turn blank and emotionless canvas into some living gorgeous beings. He is an artist to boot.
Apparently, his clinical touch to paintings is unmatched. The only difference is that while he had to use a stethoscope in order to turn around an ailing patient, he now uses the eyes of his mind to craft life into the canvas.
In fact, when Kas was just a little boy, he always had vivid imaginations of things and faces he wanted to paint or draw. At any given opportunity he would draw or paint something which would impress his peers. But, as life in Malawi dictates, you are only taken seriously when you have a well-defined career complete with a trained profession. So he had to conform and train as a clinician.
Born in Zimbabwe, Bulawayo on January 5 1985, Kas has always had a natural knack for the arts.
That was even clear during his primary school education, which he did at various primary schools due to his parents’ careers that called for constant transfers. That inner love did not even die when he was a student at HHI Secondary School in Blantyre between 1999 and 2002. Kas was always drawing something according to mood.
The fire was never doused, even when Kas enrolled with the Malawi College for Health Sciences (MCHS). He successfully completed his studies and started working as a clinical officer.
Kas always practised his art of drawing using pencil and silently continued to perfect his art.
“I eventually decided to dump my profession as a clinical officer. I felt within me that I was more of an artist than anything else,” said Mdoka.
He said not many understood his decision to quit a ‘well-respected’ profession after three long years of work.
“I decided to take a chance and concentrate on my real passion as a visual artist. I was never trained elsewhere as a visual artist but this is my life, a career which God gave me,” said Kas.
“When I sit down to create art, I let my imagination run wild. I usually draw portraits of things around me, especially the youth. I am a young man myself so they inspire me a lot,” he said.
About the portrait that made rounds on social media, Mdoka said he was inspired to make the smiling portrait because his friends had been accusing him of making portraits of sad faces.
“The smiling girl with plaited hair is my imagination of a perfect happy girl in our African society. I have embraced making happy faces after my friends’ advice,” he added.
But in a society where art is not taken as a profitable business how does he manage?
“I moved from Malawi to Cape Town where I operate from as art is more appreciated here than back home,” he said.
He is based in Cape Town and exhibits his creations at Art Gallery B, Bellville.
Said Kas: “I sell my portraits through exhibitions. I also get orders and make portraits and visuals according to my clients’ specifications. In a nutshell, I am living my dream. I cannot say I am there yet, but things are much better and I don’t regret leaving my job as a clinical officer as being a visual artist is my passion.”
He reckons it will be a while before Malawi’s visual artists can comfortably sell their art works and make profit in the country.
“Art is more appreciated here than at home. But I have a lot of Malawians appreciating me now than ever. I encourage Malawians to start appreciating art especially by their own local artists,” he says.
Kas says he uses oil paint, charcoal, graphite pencil and graphic tablet when creating his art works.
He became a sensation after writer Stanley Onjezani Kenani shared one of his art works and wrote on his Facebook page: “A painting by Kas Mdoka, a Malawian. Wow. Wow. Bow deeply. Wow.”
The post was accompanied by the now famous portrait of a smiling girl complete with a beautiful hair do. Many commented that at first glance they thought it was a real photograph of a young girl.
Many reacted to the post with messages of positivity.
The artist says in future he would like to try his hands into 2D animation.
“I want to give my art works some resemblance of life,” he says.
At the moment Kas continues to practise his art, saying for him practice never stops and the more he practices the better he gets.