Visual artist on the move

South Africa-based Malawian visual artist Jethro Longwe was first locally trained in Malawi before making it to the rainbow nation. His, is natural talent, decorated by a touch of academic training.

Now that he is striving to advance his skill, Longwe says he is in arts school trying to advance his career.

Longwe’s art exploits in the country, especially the sketches of high profile individuals he made, caught the attention of journalists, business tycoons and politicians.

Longwe with one of his artistic works

The artist, who mainly uses acrylic on canvas and other unconventional surfaces such as metals and walls, likes creating African themes ranging from people, nature, wildlife, landscapes and abstracts.

“I have been here [SA] for few a months and everything is going on according to plans. I have received an overwhelming response from new and old clients both from home and within South Africa,” said Longwe.

“I have taken advantage of being in South Africa to continue with my studies too. And early this year I got accepted to study graphic designing at Ruth Prowse University of Artin Capetown.”

He said he now sees a brighter future.

“So, I have had successful strides both as a student and a visual artist. People are amazed with the unique talent,” said Longwe.

The artist does not only draw portraits of celebrities, newsmakers and statesmen. His clients include ordinary people.

He usually asks his clients to either pose for him to take a photo or simply send him a photo that they already have and he recreates them using either a charcoal or pencil on canvas or paper.

Background

While at William Murray Secondary School in Lilongwe, in the year 2 000, Longwe started expressing himself through music, dance, painting and drawing.

His creative skills, however, were further sharpened through the continued support and encouragement of his parents.

The second-born in a family of four, he comes from Nkhata Bay District and is married to Tadala Longwe.

He stated: “Investing my time in art was a way to unwind and discover myself. I discovered my artistic skills in my primary school visual arts class. I always felt so comfortable in the art room and I loved to experiment with new materials. Out of all the subjects I took in school, art was the most natural to me.”

“I believe my love for design also evolved through the conversations with people that surrounded me, including my father. We would often sit down for hours, drawing virtually anything from people to buildings.”

Through experience, Longwe said he has learnt that 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.

Challenges

Longwe bemoaned lack of a ready market for artworks in Malawi as one of the biggest challenges in arts and craft.

“This is because in Malawi art is not appreciated at the same level as it is elsewhere. No wonder it is mostly foreigners who buy artworks in Malawi. There is need for Malawians to start appreciating art,” said the artist who is also a member of Fine Art America, one of the largest online communities of artists in the world.

Mastery of his skills was enhanced after he was enrolled for a degree programme in arts at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, in Zomba.

After graduating from the institution, Longwe carried on his artistic dream.

He added that Malawian artists are creative when it comes to  using local materials to create beautiful works of art. n

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