It is natural to expect someone who grew up under the shadows of two legendry music makers to make a life out of music.
But the story of Laura Banda bears testimony that one cannot easily be influenced by their environment. Having Lucius Banda as her father and Paul Banda as her uncle, two music greats of their generation, was not enough to lure her to the microphone.
Unlike her older sibling Johnny Zembani, who followed the family tide, Laura chose to take her own direction.
The 23-year-old is determined to eke out a living as a visual artist. For her, a day in a secluded place, brush in hand, with drops of paint splashing on her tender skin and beautiful designer clothes and with her focus on the canvass, is what excites her.
The visual artist admits she has never attempted music at any serious level except when she is chatting with her father after dinner or at any such informal gathering.
“I have always felt like I could never be good at it,” she told Chill in an interview.
Laura admits that being an introvert gave her an escape route which allows her to be alone while working on her art.
She said: “There is a euphoric feeling of freedom when doing it. I have never been the person who gets along with people and I am shy when I am in a group. When I am painting something, the strokes on the canvass are liberating.”
For four years now, the Polytechnic Management Development Centre student has been expressing herself using the brush and coloured illuminations under her brand, Namtengo Arts.
Under the Namtengo Arts umbrella are other branches such as Lau’s Beauty Galore, a make-up artist brand which provides beautifying make-up services and Ecstacy which offers Sheesha sessions and rents out Sheesha bongs during art events.
Laura said doing her own small businesses has made her feel more empowered and independent.
“The experience has been wonderful. I have had the opportunity to discover new skills and learn new techniques. I have encountered losses that have helped to mould my perseverance too,” she said.
Last week, the social media was awash with news that Laura had veered off her known artistic lane after she created a special effect make-up imagery for poet Raphael Sitima’s upcoming poem Pemphero.
Her work on the make-up impression, which was a depiction of a person with his face badly injured from a car accident, was so precise that it successfully depicted reality.
Laura said: “I saw something like it on YouTube some years ago. In 2018, I tried it for the first time then I knew I just needed more practice. Then I did it again on my arm, the response I got then gave me the confidence that I could do it.”
Though her creation earned her rave reviews, she says that doesn’t mean she is transitioning into a new form of art rather just adding value to her brand.
But how does it feel to come from a family which already has established names in the creative industry?
Laura said it is a situation which gives her both pressure and motivation to a good degree.
“It gives me pressure in a sense that everyone expects me to be holding a microphone and not a brush. And the fact that I am the trailblazer leaves me with nowhere to learn from.
“At the same time, hearing the stories of my father, how he started out, gives me motivation that I can make it too,” said the visual artist.
Laura said her ambition is to open an art gallery that will combine a channel for artists to engage with consumers and a place which can export art to get Malawian products on the international market.
Her brother Johhny Zembani said the direction his sister chose to take is a true manifestation of what informs art.
“If the motivation is coming from the heart, that is when you know that the person is really being driven by passion. It would have been easy for her to become a musician, but she went for something which drives her,” he said.