Kwa Haraba: Birth of an arts shop

Some of the products found in Kwa Haraba
Some of the products found in Kwa Haraba

An artist’s mind is a thing of beauty. And so is the handiwork borne from an artist’s mind. When you step into Kwa Haraba Art Shop, it is like entering the mind of a traditional, other worldly and artistic genius. And we all know, the line between genius and insanity is threadbare. Our Correspondent ROGERS SIULA explores.

There is a method to the madness of Kwa Haraba. Borne from the inspiration emanating from a village idiot, who was convinced he could dig a tunnel from his hut, straight to the chief’s daughter’s hut to win her heart, Thoko Liwimbi learnt a valuable lesson to never limit the extent of one’s imaginations.

In a country where La Caverna and Kungoni Mua Mission have the stranglehold in terms of promotion and marketing of traditional art, Kwa Haraba, the brainchild of Liwimbi is perhaps the realistic future, saving the last laugh for when people, Malawians, visitors and other nationals, realise the true essence, beauty and Afrocentricity of Kwa Haraba Arts.

In a country where most of the graduates gravitate towards paid jobs, gainful employment and salaried positions, what drove Thoko Liwimbi towards working in the arts, and trusting the arts to cater for her everyday living?

“All the time through primary and secondary school, and even through college, I never imagined that I’d be running my own arts shop. I thought I’d end up working in a bank or some such corporate dispensation.

“However, art is where my heart is; this is what satisfies my soul. Creating these wonderful pieces and showing them to the world. There are actually some pieces here which are simply on exhibition, for people to simply whet their appetites for beautiful objects and appreciate the art. I would never sell them, for after creating them I felt I’d transmitted a piece of myself into the pieces, ergo I’m quite attached to them,” remarked Liwimbi when asked of her art.

Kwa Haraba Art boasts different types and styles of expression, forms of art that are made from different locally available materials.

“There are pieces in here that I made, but I obviously didn’t make all of these,” she clarifies with a sweep of her hand across the four walls, that look more of an art haven than a mere shop.

“I work with a lot of other Malawian artists. Art is about expression. I buy art which appeals to me, and sometimes what I buy later doesn’t impress me and I have to modify it. Currently, I am working on a cow head that attracted me because of its jutting horns. Now it is one of the most beautiful and sought after pieces,” she adds.

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