Breaking boundaries in visual arts

It is no secret that visual arts in the country is hugely male-dominated and there are few women in the industry. However, visual artist and architect Lerato Upendo Honde believes women have what it takes to stand the heat. Recently, she hosted a solo exhibition titled Seasons at La Galleria (Old Town Mall) in Lilongwe. Our Arts Correspondent MPHATSO CHIWALA caught up with her to discuss her visual arts career and other issues.

Lerato busy painting a portrait of persons with albinism

Q

: Tell me more about yourself?

A

: My name is Lerato Upendo Honde. I am 21 years old and hails from Zomba and Lilongwe. Growing up, I have been to several schools, but recently I completed my bachelor’s in architectural studies at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and I will be graduating in April.

Q

: You hosted a solo exhibition titled Seasons recently. What is it all about?

A

: Seasons is an animated series which celebrates the beauty and versatility of African women. However, each animation is composed of a series of drawings scribbled with fine liner pens.

Q

: When did you start pursuing art?

A

: It’s been years. When I was a little girl, I used to lie on the floor for hours, drawing virtually everything with my late father. I believe I have always had a creative background which I explored through various mediums as a child.

Q

: What motivates you?

A

: My vision. I am a planner—I like to set goals in advance and, very accurately, plan how and when I can get to them. I often carry a sketchbook around with me because I tend to get all sorts of ideas about space, aesthetics, or the kind of message I would want to portray with me through a piece.

Q

: How would you define yourself and your works?

A

: It is God-given gift with a purpose far greater than me. In terms of defining myself, I believe my art has allowed me to locate myself in the spaces that I find myself worthy. I grew up in various cities around the world, as well as in Malawi. Each place and experience have stayed with me and contributed a lot.

Q

: Apart from art, what else do you do?

A

: Now, art is something I pursue outside of school and work. I am currently working as a senior architectural technologist in Lilongwe. I like to engage with other people and I find that this inspires my imagination.

Q

: Do you feel your art has changed anything?

A

: Of course, art is not just about recreating images in the form of a painting or drawing, but instead, art is about improving the quality of life. My art has provided a refreshing kind of perspective and therefore inspires people to cultivate their own talents.

Q

: You are treading in a career treaded by a few women. What is your impression?

A

:  I treat situations equally, I let works of my able hands speak for themselves. However, I don’t look down upon myself. I was born a fighter that’s why I strive for the best.

Q

: What materials do you use when doing your art?

A

: I use whatever material best fits my idea from plaster of Paris (PoP), to oil paint, fine liner pens, film – I do not limit myself. I like to experiment with the base I use when I am doing a painting – I have used floppy disks, CDs and a mannequin in the past to create a painting and a lampshade.

Q

: What inspires your art?

A

: I am inspired by my exploration of myself as a young Malawian female and how the context of my being changes according to the spaces I find myself in. I am inspired by the interactions I have with people from different and similar backgrounds and beliefs.

Q

: Which artists inspire you?

A

: There are several contemporary artists that inspire me with the way they explore contemporary techniques to reflect the times. That include Toyin Odutola from Nigeria and Ng’endo Mukii from Kenya. Deceased Mexican artist Frida Kahlo has also been a great source of inspiration.

Q

: In the next five years, where do you see yourself?

A

: I am looking forward to the future as I have plenty in store. Ultimately, I aim to pursue postgraduate education in architecture. Furthermore, I intend on carrying out various art projects, some of which I have already planned. I have some interesting collaborations happening and I am excited about. n

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