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Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe

Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe

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Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe Asante Afrika
Miranda Mathe Art
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Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe Asante Afrika
Miranda Mathe

For many growing up in Africa, having aspirations to do anything artistic for a living isn’t considered practical. You can aspire to be a doctor, teacher or a business owner; “practical”, is what many parents push their children towards. Artist, Miranda Mathe, is one child who wasn’t detoured from following her passion. The Bulawayo based fine art creative, who is also the founder of Kopano, a Trust that helps people living with disabilities by empowering them through Art lessons, had a normal upbringing in Luveve – attending Josiah Chinamano Primary School and Sikhulile High School. Born to Nelson Mathe, a mechanic and stay at home mother, Nokuthula, Miranda’s choice to do art was considered to have come from nowhere.

I sat down with Miranda to get to know more about this defying artist.

When did you know you wanted to do art?

After my O’ levels… I was passionate about Art since primary school, so I decided to pursue the dream after my O’ levels.

 How did your parents feel about your choice, did they have other ideas for your future?

They always wanted me to be a journalist so they never liked the idea, because it’s a field that people don’t understand and think one can’t make a living out of.

How did you start on your artistic journey, what was your first piece?

After 2 years of mentorship, I applied for a studio at the Zimbabwe National Art Gallery of Bulawayo and my first piece was batik (designs on fabric).

Did you attend school to learn or better your art, and if so which one, and how was the experience?

Not really, I had a personal mentor, Bhekitshe Ntshali, who was with me from the beginning of my journey.

How has the art scene in Bulawayo been for you so far?

 The art scene is a bit depressed because of society’s financial issues. Most locals don’t have money to spend on art.

When you create, what is in your artistic process?

 It’s always the available materials, visualisation, and putting what is in my mind on canvas with the available materials… and refinement of the address as the work takes shape.

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you be doing instead?

I can’t imagine myself doing anything else, but maybe I would’ve become a mechanic, as I am so close to my dad.

Most African people don’t see art as a reliable way of making a living. Have you experienced some negative reactions from people?

Yes definitely. Like I said, my parents wanted me to be a journalist. Art has been associated with anti-social behaviour and I want to change that perception. I am up to making people understand that art is a profession and someone can make a decent living out of it.

If so can you elaborate on the encounters?

That’s a story for another day, as I will try and write a book about my life, and I will include my challenges and victories in Art.

Which artist do you look up to?

I look up to Bhekitshe Ntshali and Charlie Bhebhe.

What inspires your work?

Mostly nature, and I really love to work with children and the disabled.

What are some of the issues you face in your profession?

Lack of proper material in our local art suppliers, and the few you can get are very pricey. As a fraternity, the arts industry is not united as most people do their things individually, and as such, there is very little sharing of ideas. Art is not seen as an industry, yet it can be a major foreign currency earner and people should just know that people can be talented differently. Some are academics and some are artists, yet the school system just grades us the same academically.

Miranda shared some of her pieces with us:

Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe Asante Afrika
Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe Asante Afrika
Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe Asante Afrika
Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe Asante Afrika
Up Close with Fine Art Creative Miranda Mathe Asante Afrika

Connect with Miranda via Instagram: @mirandamathe8

lnterviewed by Hazel Lifa

Fashion

Beads on the Runway – Epica Jewellery by Sharon Wendo

Being a stylist is something I always admired, and I never thought of ever pursuing it career-wise, because of the perception we always had that one cannot make enough money to earn a living as a creative.

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Beads on the Runway - Epica Jewellery by Sharon Wendo Asante Afrika
Furaha Neckpiece - Epica Jewellery
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Beads on the Runway - Epica Jewellery by Sharon Wendo Asante Afrika
Sharon Wendo donning the Wendo Thread Choker

Never did she think she would one day be owning her very own successful business; but four years after taking up a beading course, our October cover feature, designer, stylist and entrepreneur, Miss Sharon Wendo, is now a household name who dresses and styles famous celebrities and models on Kenya’s fashion runways. Read on to find out how she started her now famous brand.

Beads on the Runway - Epica Jewellery by Sharon Wendo Asante Afrika
Kipepeo Epaulette with Mask

Tell us about your journey to becoming the Founder, CEO and Creative Director of Epica Jewellery (Epic African Jewellery). You only started jewellery and accessory making about four years ago, and decided to do it as an income generating venture almost two years ago now. What were you doing before that and what inspired your decision to start jewellery making? Were you always a creative person?

I was on a government program called Kenya Youth Empowerment Project, where we were essentially being taught about life skills, entrepreneurship and financial literacy; and at the end of the program we went for a 3 months’ internship in our respective sectors. I actually learned some beading skills during that internship. Initially when I started, it wasn’t something that I wanted to pursue, because after the internship I got a job as a school receptionist, and that is when I knew that that was not the direction I wanted for myself. I resigned after 3 months, and decided I was going to pursue jewellery designing, which is something I fell in love with in time. I have always been a creative person, and even when I was young I had always wanted to be a stylist. Being a stylist is something I always admired, and I never thought of ever pursuing it career-wise, because of the perception we always had that one cannot make enough money to earn a living as a creative.

Who is Epica Jewellery made for? Can you describe the type of client you had in mind when you started this brand?

My brand is for women who want unique statement pieces. They love fashion and they are looking to feel even more confident, with statement pieces that tell the African story.

Beads on the Runway - Epica Jewellery by Sharon Wendo Asante Afrika
Pepea Cape

Can you describe the growth process of the brand? Has it been easy and how have you managed to overcome the obstacles met along the way?

The growth process has not been easy at all. I have no formal business training so even when I started, I did it because of passion.I did not know anything about running a business, and my beading skills were quite basic at that time. What really helped me, is my hunger to learn business-wise, and working hard to improve my skills. I did make a lot of mistakes along the way as I was learning on the job, but I also got to make a lot of changes along the way and improve on the way i did things.

You work from your home in Nairobi. Did you start off as a one-woman team and as your business is growing steadily, do you still make the jewellery and accessories by yourself or do you now have people assisting you?

Yes, I did start the business by myself. I was alone for quite a while, but eventually, I added one more person to assist me. I am hoping that as the business continues to grow, I will be able to add more people to my team.

Every creative designer has a message or a statement behind the pieces that they make. What is your favourite piece from the ones you have made thus far, and what was the statement that you wanted it to make?

My favourite is the Furaha neckpiece with feathers. I love this piece because I got to incorporate feathers in my collection, which is something I had really wanted to do for a long time. The piece is also very trendy, yet contemporary at the same time.

Beads on the Runway - Epica Jewellery by Sharon Wendo Asante Afrika
Furaha Neckpiece with feathers

Africa is filled with extraordinary talent and there are so many gifted jewellery and accessory makers out there. What makes your products ‘Epic’, and what sets them apart from the rest?

Just like my brand name suggests, my pieces are very bold and authentic. I am very inspired by different African cultures and our vibrant colours, so I merge both the African cultures and modern fashion to create authentic pieces. 

What are your biggest achievements in the fashion industry thus far?

I’ve had the privilege to work with the biggest stylists in Kenya, which has been so great for my brand and I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with amazing fashion brands. I am mostly proud of recently becoming part of the British Council Creative DNA program. I also got to be part of a panel discussion for London Fashion Week,  talking about my brand with UK based Fashion Scout, which is a leading international consultancy and platform for empowering and showcasing the future of fashion.

Your products are sold through your online store. How is that business model working for you in Africa? What are the pros and cons of running an online business in Africa that you have noted?

I am so grateful for the online platform and it has worked great for my business, mainly because I get to reach a lot of people from all over the world. Instagram has been great too, as I get many customers from that platform. I initially struggled to position myself in the online space, because I had not figured out who my customer was. So basically, I was marketing to the wrong people, and it was quite frustrating because I was not making any sales. With time though, and as I learned the business, I got to learn what worked and what didn’t work.

Being an entrepreneur is very demanding. How do you manage to balance your personal life and work, so that one does not encroach into the other?

Honestly speaking, this is a very big challenge, especially considering that we are a small brand which has a small team. I always try to designate some time for myself, because the last thing I want, is to burn out!

Beading is a time-intensive craft and it teaches one to be extremely meticulous when working. What other values has your craft and entrepreneurship in general taught you?  

The one thing I have definitely learnt is patience. It takes about 3 – 5 days to finish only one body piece. I was not always a patient person, but beading takes a lot of time, and this is something I had to learn with time. Perfecting the craft takes a lot of time. I have also learnt the importance of consistency; as I run my business, I have realised that the main reason why clients trust us, is because our product quality is consistent, and so is our customer service.

Beads on the Runway - Epica Jewellery by Sharon Wendo Asante Afrika
Jasiri Long Skirt and Pepea Cape

Young Africans almost always have to work extra hard to achieve their goals. Do you have any words of encouragement for an upcoming creative who is also trying to build a successful brand?

My main advice is to never give up, even during those low times, because we all experienced some self-doubt at some point, but we kept on moving. You also have to be consistent and trustworthy; this is the best way for clients to trust you and to recommend you to other people, and that is mostly how small brands grow.

Beads on the Runway - Epica Jewellery by Sharon Wendo Asante Afrika
Tausi Masterpiece

Connect with Sharon on Instagram and Facebook, @epicajewellery, and through her website epicajewellery.com

Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu

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Lifestyle

Hello Spring – An Optical Illusion by Renée Seckel

Spring is about how everything literally comes to life in Spring; there’s more energy, more colour, and the glow on everything is just amazing. Fashion is bold and colourful, free and beautiful. Makeup is dewy and vibrant, while the air feels alive as the first shoots of life come forth. 

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Despite a one week delay, spring is finally here and we’re ever so excited! Here to remind the world of the beauty of spring is our cover feature, Renée Seckel, a professional make-up artist who specialises in optical illusions but also does regular fashion and bridal makeup.

Anyone who has ever met Renée will tell you just what an amazing and talented artist she is, beautiful both inside and out. She is a passionate, driven, creative and goal-oriented person with the energy of a 16 year old. She is a mother and a wife, and family means everything to her. When she’s not doing makeup, Renee loves singing at her church and she absolutely loves cooking and baking too.

To say that Renée nailed her “Hello Spring” exhibition is a complete understatement. 

Tell us more about the inspiration behind “Hello Spring”.

The inspiration behind “Hello Spring” is about how everything literally comes to life in Spring; there’s more energy, more colour, and the glow on everything is just amazing. Fashion is bold and colourful, free and beautiful. Makeup is dewy and vibrant, while the air feels alive as the first shoots of life come forth. 

What fascinates you about this line of work? 

I absolutely love creativity and thinking out of the box when I create different makeup looks, especially optical illusion work and special effects. 

Which two season makeup trends interest you the most?

I love the lower-liner trend and the red smoky eye. 

How do you stay abreast with the latest beauty trends?

I keep learning. We never stop learning, no matter how old you are. I make sure I go onto social media and follow other makeup artists and allow myself to draw from them too. 

“…everything literally comes to life in Spring; there’s more energy, more colour, and the glow on everything is just amazing.”

Should we be on the lookout for beauty trends from you?

Most definitely! I recently launched my ‘Lashes by Renée Seckel’, so I’m excited to grow my brand.

Do you have any advice for upcoming makeup artists?

Never allow the negative opinions of people to shift your focus, keep your eye on the goal and allow that negativity to grow you. People’s opinions will always be their opinions and they are entitled to them and you cannot change that, but don’t respond to their call of negativity or allow it to alter your walk… straighten your back and keep walking!

Hello Spring - An Optical Illusion by Renée Seckel Asante Afrika
Hello Spring - An Optical Illusion by Renée Seckel Asante Afrika
Hello Spring - An Optical Illusion by Renée Seckel Asante Afrika
Renée Seckel

Interviewed by Bubbles Mlangeni

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Art

Art of the Ordinary – Contemporary Art

How is contemporary art made? What is its cultural value? Where is it displayed?

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Art of the Ordinary - Contemporary Art Asante Afrika
Art of the Ordinary - Contemporary Art
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by Ntuthuko Mpofu

I was not one of those people who understood the art industry and its policies, but I really wanted to involve myself in the art world; I felt there was a lot I could do there. I had no clue where to start, but I knew I had to learn. My solution to understanding or discovering the beauty of art was to walk into an art gallery or museum. I explored by visiting my local Art Gallery for the first time. It was a defining moment – my first contemporary art experience, as I was pushing myself towards boundaries.

It may sound a little counter-intuitive, but do bear with me; I was left with no choice but to do some research during my exhibition experience. I read the artist’s biography and the artist’s statement. I can’t recall the artist’s name, but I remember that he was a contemporary artist based in Moscow. What is contemporary art? Is there any economic or financial generation? How does it differ from the art of the previous generation, how can I approach it? How is contemporary art made? What is its cultural value? Where is it displayed? “In galleries of course…” after getting the clue. How does an individual begin to make it relevant in our own lives and experiences? Who then makes contemporary art? Kudzanai Chiurai, Gareth Nyandoro, Richard Mudariki, Portia Zvavahera, Rashid Jogee, Bukhosi Nyathi and Israel Israel. These are some of the artists whose work I have managed to interact with.

How does art remain contemporary? What is the relationship between art and its time? The answers to that, we shall continue to explore. Art is always in dialogue with its time and thus will always be a part of its present reality. The language around contemporary art is daunting, while the art objects themselves can be mystifying. Times are changing but is the world of art adapting to reflect the change?

What is Contemporary Art?

It is artwork produced during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Oxford defines it as “Art that is of the moment or the very recent past, in distinction to modern art, which is a more all-embracing term and can be used to cover many of the avant-garde movements of the 20th century as well as art that is contemporary...” Most scholars would define it as an art of recent years and the present day, being work including that which was produced after the modern art movement to the present day. However, modern artwork is not just art produced during a specific time frame. This style of art is difficult to define because the work is of a wide variety.

Artists of the past were often influenced by religion; today’s artists can be inspired by much more and the work often grows out of their own interests. The work they do is reflective and can reflect a diversity of narratives or perspectives. This then makes this type of art have many points of view or objectives. Contemporary Artists’ work may be influenced by their culture, globalisation, and capitalism. Common themes that might be examined include sexuality, identity, technology, globalisation, migration, urbanisation and popular trends. This makes Contemporary Art a complex examination of the present day. The advantage of this type of art is that one can empty his thoughts or state of emotions, than follow a common theme or subject. It does not limit an artist to explore ‘’orthodox’ ‘concepts like religion. The coronavirus impact will definitely be one of the subjects that will be common in most spaces.

Art of the Ordinary - Contemporary Art Asante Afrika
Title: Achtung! Men Ahead
Acrylic on Fabiano Paper
Artist: Work extract from Ivy and Alison Co.
In post-colonial Zimbabwe, Gender-Based Violence has been continuously used by men as a weapon to intimidate women and to cause physical harm and psychological damage. A lot still needs to be done by both the government and the citizens to curb GBV. 
*Achtung is a German word which means ‘Caution’.
Art of the Ordinary - Contemporary Art Asante Afrika
Title: Waiting
Acrylic on canvas
Artist: Work extract from Ivy and Alison Co.
This work seeks to demystify the perceived isolation of the boy child as an object around which toxic masculinity evolves. The sharp edges of paint and paper present a texture that drapes the figure with hardship and affliction.

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