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Creative Outlet

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku

“I look around me for inspiration; I am inspired primarily by the things that happen in my community. My work is a reflection of my reality.”

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Omega Masuku Art
Omega Masuku Art
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Hazel Lifa

Of all art forms, abstract art is definitely the most subjective, and at times misunderstood. Despite this fact, Omega Masuku has stood her ground and established herself as an abstract painter. The Bulawayo based artist was born to parents Morris Masuke, a self-employed refrigerator technician, and Viola Masuku, a stay at home mom, on February 22nd, 1999 in Mount Darwin, Harare. She currently resides in Mzilikazi, and did her high schooling at Sobukhazi High.

Abstract Art

Relating to or denoting art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but rather seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, colours, and textures.

https://www.lexico.com/definition/abstract
A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Abstract Artist, Omega Masuku

Omega has collaborated with an impressive number of artists and participated in exhibitions internationally that have cemented her status in the Bulawayo art scene. She has worked with a number of artists like Ghislan from France, Zimbabwean artist Owen Maseko, and Charlie Bhebhe, to name just a few. Omega’s work was featured in the moving Rembrandt exhibition, which celebrated Rembrandt’s paintings’ 360th anniversary.

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art
A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

Omega has also donated her skills to painting workshops in hospitals, working with fellow artists from Scotland whom she went on to do an online exhibition with. She managed to squeeze in a few minutes in her busy schedule to talk to us, where she draws attention to the need for more female artists.

“Abstract art is like creating your own world, and making people live in it.”

How did you get started on your artistic journey?

I have to say art is a talent one has to be born with; l started seriously perusing art when l was 12 years old.

Did you attend school for your art, if so which one, and how was the experience?

Yes, l studied at Harare Polytechnical where I did Art and Design, and also Art and Visual Art. After graduating I moved to Bulawayo, where I went to the Mzilikazi Craft Centre and studied for a year, before I got called to work at the National Art gallery.

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art
A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

When did you know you wanted to do art as an actual job?

I knew in high school, in form 2. l realised that I’m always happy when I’m drawing or sketching.

What was the first-ever piece you made? What did you think about it? Do you think you did a good job?

My first piece I did was titled Broken Promises. l think it was great because I got a lot of positive feedback on the painting from my colleagues. I didn’t expect them to like it as much as they did, and that really boosted my confidence in my craft.

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

When you create, what inspires your work, and what is in your artistic process?

 I look around me for inspiration; I am inspired primarily by the things that happen in my community. My work is a reflection of my reality.

Abstract Art is so subjective; how do you deal with the many different interpretations of your work?

I learnt early on that art is putting myself out there, and that people have opinions, but that shouldn’t stop me from creating. Abstract art is like creating your own world, and making people live in it.

Most African people don’t see art as a practical profession, how have you dealt with this?

It’s a bit challenging and annoying (Masuku rolls her eyes), but I have tried with a few other female artists like Nhlanhla Mathe and Zanele Masuku, to introduce art at schools. I try to support young upcoming artists like myself as much as I can. Educating parents about art also goes a long way – inviting them to exhibitions and to galleries.

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

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

Actually, my mom didn’t want me to become an artist; she wanted me to be a doctor. It was a challenge to make her understand that art makes me happy, but she’s coming around.

Do you look up to other artists, and if so, who?

Yes, l do look up to my mentor, Gorge Masarira, an amazing artist and teacher.

How is the art scene in Bulawayo?

With the current economic struggles, it has been slow. Art is considered a luxury you know, and many don’t have a penny to spare. Before the covid19 pandemic, there were workshops where networking was done, I could do collaborations with other artists and galleries, and those were great opportunities for marketing one’s work. 

At times your work doesn’t qualify for an exhibition; for example, they give you a theme and a short amount of time to work on it, and your work doesn’t make the cut, which is always a downer, but you keep moving forward. Growing pains. 

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

I would definitely want to still be linked to art somehow, maybe as an art teacher or a professor in Visual Art.

No job is perfect, what are some of the issues you face in your profession?

Yoh! Where do I begin?! As a female in the male-dominated Bulawayo art scene, it is hard to be taken seriously. I constantly have to put myself out there, and work twice as hard to get the same attention and credit, as a guy whose technique and skill are inferior to mine. The guys in the industry are forever trying to make things about romance, but seriously, I don’t have time for that. 

Another challenge is marketing one’s work; it’s hard to get the word out there about your art. Social media is a double edged sword, because while it promotes your work, it also opens the door to theft and plagiarism. Someone can easily take your work, change a few things, and pass it off as theirs.  

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

What advice do you have for other aspiring abstract artists, or artists in general?

I will say don’t let the fear strike you down, keep on painting, you will get there. Trust your talent and avoid being in competition with everyone around you. Also, collaborations are vital in art.

Omega is also a capable fine artist, but favours abstract art more. For those interested in getting in contact with the artist for a personal piece, or collaboration, or exhibitions, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter, Omega Masuku; Instagram Natasha_natie_ or email her at simzmegarts@gmail.com.

Interviewed by Hazel Lifa

Creative Outlet

Is History Important In Art? – Ntuthuko Mpofu Continues On His Journey Of Learning More About Art

When talking about art, history will not move away from the concept of philosophy.

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Is History Important In Art? - Ntuthuko Mpofu Continues On His Journey Of Learning More About Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Rock art in the Nswatugi Cave in Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe
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To the readers of Asante Afrika Magazine, thank you for the opportunity to share, learn, reflect, and connect with you. We haven’t seen each other eye to eye, but I know we are connected artistically, because be it the movie you are watching, the music you are listening to, the clothes you are wearing, or under that roof you are in, someone invested their craft to it. As a team, we strive to give you different content that will be informative, whether you are an aspiring artist or collector. Many people have asked me why there are so many terms used in the arts, so I decided to unpack a few things and summarise the importance of art history.

They say the further we go back in history, the harder it gets; but what about more recent stories, with a solid basis? Imagine telling someone without any foundation of art that Claude Monet, Marina Abramovic, and Jeff Koons, are some of the best creatives in the world who influence artists, even up to this day?

Is History Important In Art? - Ntuthuko Mpofu Continues On His Journey Of Learning More About Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Artist: Oscar-Claude Monet (1840 – 1926), founder of French Impressionist painting.
Painting: Landscape near Monte Carlo – Oil on Canvas.

“A simple mistake causes a chain of errors that can change not only art history, but also our traditions and our society.”

Misunderstanding will always lead to clueless remarks, hence we will learn together. When talking about art, history will not move away from the concept of philosophy. Philosophy is a Greek word that is derived from philologia, composed of ‘philos’ – friend/lover, and ‘logos’ – speech. It is a discipline which studies texts of various natures and from different periods, in order to determine their original form and meaning. As time passes, some texts are lost, others destroyed or ruined, while many are mistranslated. As a well-noted Latin expression states, “errare humanum est”, meaning, mistakes happen. Yet, some mistakes are more important than others. A simple mistake causes a chain of errors that can change not only art history, but also our traditions and our society. That is why the work of philologists and translators is so important, and we shouldn’t underestimate it.

Prehistoric art is a term that refers to Stone Age, Paleolithic, and Neolithic art and artifacts – literally referring to the time before recorded history, as well as a select few architectural ruins. Art from this period was a powerful form of communicating information between tribes and generations; the Lascaux caves in Southern France demonstrate hunting techniques through the use of basic narrative structure and iconography, dating back to 15,000 B.C. 

In a research proven by the British museum, rock paintings were also there in Africa. African art history has played a significant role in shaping the culture and history of the world. The belief that Africa is the cradle of the history of mankind is virtually unshakeable. Origins of African art history lie long before recorded history, preserved in the obscurity of time. Rock Art is very old, and shell beads fashioned for necklaces have been recovered in the caves as well. Personal ornamentation and engraved designs are the earliest evidence of art in Africa, and are inextricably tied up with the development of human cognition. With art, as we look across the continent, we may tap an abundance of raw talent that is hindered by location to access resources like social media and publications. Art history was and is still an inspiration to our people in practicing art, since their history motivates them as a people.

To realise the transformation of targeted social groupings, we need to work out of the ethical spaces, and propagate much information as possible. The issues in this publication are reflective of art as a history of what the world is going through, and how the development will look like. There is no contestation in terms of recognition when it comes to the recognition of cultural creativity. With this art background, as a people, why are we finding ourselves talking about the controversy around the funding agencies in Africa in support of art up to this day? Ask yourself if there is any role played by the art industry when it comes to issues of poverty reduction? When colonisation in most of sub-Saharan Africa took place in the 1840s, a lot of African art was acquired by travellers, traders and missionaries in the century before, and they left the continent with it. There was never merit given to the locals. This should have been an eye-opener. As much as people say the work was not preserved, there was a greater influence of art from empires like Great Zimbabwe, land of Punt, Kingdom of Kush, the Mali Empire, Kingdom of Aksum, Carthage and Songhai Empire.

Art history and the history of art history become so closely intertwined as to be almost indistinguishable. The interest in historiography and method is manifest in a broad spectrum of the literature of art history. It aims to explain what art is, and also how it was written. This is a way to present overviews of the different ways art histories have been written, covering such large topics as Marxism and post-colonialism, as well as the influence of the work of individual historians. In other words, the ways in which the methods are used, define the artwork. With art history, one can trace how the world is interlinked.

Thanks for reading this. I cannot wait for the next issue for us to build a conversation from where we left off.

Is History Important In Art? - Ntuthuko Mpofu Continues On His Journey Of Learning More About Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Rock art painting depicting the life of people in the stone age 
Is History Important In Art? - Ntuthuko Mpofu Continues On His Journey Of Learning More About Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Rock art painting depicting the life of people in the stone age 

Is History Important In Art? - Ntuthuko Mpofu Continues On His Journey Of Learning More About Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Rock art painting depicting the life of people in the stone age 

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Twitter: @ntuthukompofu

Instagram: iam_ntuthuko

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Creative Outlet

I’m Afraid Of The Dark – A Poem by Tarisai Krystal Mhishi

I shy away from the dark, to protect my innocence, in a sense, for nothing good ever comes from darkness, and to make it worse, one never sees it coming, perhaps because of the lack of light.

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I'm Afraid Of The Dark - A Poem by Tarisai Krystal Mhishi Asante Afrika Magazine
#EndGBV Makeup Art by IG @makeupbyrenee_seckel
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I’m afraid of the dark.

Not because of the absence of light, 

But because even my incense doesn’t burn in its presence, to protect its fragrant light. 

I shy away from the dark, to protect my innocence, in a sense, for nothing good ever comes from darkness, and to make it worse, one never sees it coming, perhaps because of the lack of light.

 It just astounds you all at once, with the rage of a tonne of bricks on your tender soul, and there’s no flight.

I’m afraid of the dark, because it is when all things that creep manouver.

Last night I saw a stark naked woman, in a woven basket, roaming the dark skies. 

You may laugh, but it is true; turn your lights down low, and see for yourself.

A woman on a mission she was, creeping strategically in her basket, like a vampire hiding from the sun.

I’m afraid of the dark, because things I would rather not, become apparent to me, and I cannot hide from the truth it reveals.  

I’m afraid of the dark, because that’s when they prey on us, and a crippling fear grips me so tightly, that even a prayer cannot escape my lips. 

I’m afraid of the dark. because I want to protect my light, despite the hyenas that stalk, and the vultures that circle my perimeter. 

I’m afraid of the dark, because in my part of town, Sabrina doesn’t exist, and Harry Potter is merely a joke,

Because on this side, we are not morons who believe in an oxymoron,

If it’s not black, it’s white – no shades of grey.

I’m afraid of the dark, in hopes that my fear will protect me from the monsters under my bed.

And so, apart from sleeping with one eye open,  I keep the lights on too, so that they burn, if they dare escape to come for me.

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Creative Outlet

Awake – A Short Story

“…not only will you heathens be subjected to eternal damnation, but it also smells like rotten eggs down there!”

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Awake - A Short Story Asante Afrika Magazine
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Tiisetso Muloyi

A blinding white light obscured my vision. My ears rang from the piercing wail of a car hooter – a truck, perhaps? I couldn’t tell. For a moment, I felt as though I was in a state of suspended animation. A weightlessness of sorts: in limbo. Breathing became a great and painful feat. Every breath that passed through my dry, cracked lips felt like swallowing broken glass. Slammed forcefully into what I could only deduce was a deep, narrow gorge, with steep, towering sides, the feeling of weightlessness left me.

Awake - A Short Story Asante Afrika Magazine

The wheezing of my shallow, painful breaths gave me an inkling of what was going on. The taste of iron and metal on my tongue was nauseating as it made its way forcefully down my throat; choking me slightly. I couldn’t feel my legs, although that provided me with no comfort at all. My left arm lay at an awkward angle, bent backwards at the elbow, the white of the bone was visible through the torrential flow of my blood. The contrast was sharp and gruesome, making me heave through what felt like shattered ribs. I tried to move but an excruciating pain burned through my body, like a fire iron, rendering me immobile yet again.

The ache was both harrowing and stomach-churning. Turning my face to the side to expel my empty guts, bile rose up instead, and burned its way through my already parched throat. Small black dots danced around my vision, growing bigger and bigger, until finally, my eyes rolled into the back of my head.

And then… blissful darkness!

I was jolted abruptly into consciousness by some veiled force; a feeling of total disorientation descended upon me. Sitting up so suddenly left my body feeling heavy and my mind vertiginous. With heavy limbs and a thumping headache, I attempted to get my bearings, while simultaneously taking a mental inventory of my physical state. There was an oppressive weight pressing down on my already heavy chest, offset only by what felt like a sudden shocking jolt delivered to my heart. The consistent thump to my chest caused my already rapidly beating heart to flutter – no… to palpitate, violently – leaving my chest feeling both battered and bruised. Lifting my right hand to rub at the abused flesh, I took notice of a painful pinching sensation in the crook of my arm. The feeling was one akin to having an intravenous central line fed into your arm, but that couldn’t be possible.

Glancing down at the arm in question, I saw no imaginary needle; only the soft, wrinkled skin of the crook of my elbow – but the pinching sensation persisted.

Furrowing my brows in confusion, I took note of more puzzling occurrences; a faint beep, beep, beep… rang in my head, only to fall into the background, as I caught sporadic clipped conversations: “… clear. Patient still not responding… give me 360 joules…”. The command sounded like it was coming from somewhere inordinately far.

Awake - A Short Story Asante Afrika Magazine

“All clear!”, there it was again, followed by a shocking thump to my chest. What was the meaning of this? Was I hearing voices? How hard had I hit my head? Had I completely lost my mind? It was only during my decline into a mental breakdown that I deigned to study my surroundings.

It was the smell that hit me first. How had I not noticed it before? It was overwhelming! And now that it had gotten my attention, it worked its way into each one of my senses. My eyes began watering; my nose hair felt singed, and I gagged forcefully. The stench wrapped itself around me, almost like a living thing.

Brimstone. Fire and brimstone. A vague memory of high school flashes quickly in my mind: “…ah, brimstone,” intoned Mr. Mabala, speaking passionately to the uninterested group of pre-matriculants. Religious studies was not my idea of a good time, but the class was a breeze with its ‘no exam’ policy. “Reverently referred to in biblical times as ‘burning stone’, but now more commonly known as sulphur, it is found deep in the Earth’s core,” he said. “As a matter of fact, a number of books of the Bible often used it to describe hell. So, not only will you heathens be subjected to eternal damnation, but it also smells like rotten eggs down there!”, was his weak attempt at a joke, in order to receive some sort of gleeful reaction from the uninterested youth. Heavy sighs of obvious boredom were heard around the small classroom along with the shuffles of students impatiently waiting for the loud shrill of the final bell. Oh, how I wish I had listened during that lesson!

The echoing sounds of gnashing teeth and high-pitched wailing knocked me out of my reverie. Quickly wiping away the salty tears that obscured my vision, I stood on weak legs, aimlessly turning in circles, trying to find the origins of those haunting sounds.

My legs felt almost as though they were not my own, like they were borrowed. Admonishing the strange thought, I rid it completely from my mind. I had more pressing matters to attend to, like getting far away from this seemingly hellish place.

With scant visibility and rocky terrain, I couldn’t ascertain where exactly I was. Reaching for the imposing black rock wall at my side, I began looking for an exit. The walls were damp and the smell of must and rot permeated the dark, cavernous space. I must have been in a cave, an unbearably hot one at that. Sweat dripped into my eyes, stinging them slightly. It seemed that I may have been approaching the mouth of the cave as the heat became stifling, making it even harder to breathe.

The wails reverberated all around me and bounced off the cave walls. They were primal, guttural, and carried with them a debilitating sort of anguish and sorrow. Shrieking notes of pain and terror weaved themselves into the deafening cacophony. Had my hands not found purchase upon the slimy cave walls, I would have dropped to my knees under the unbearable weight of the suffering and torment heard from the relentless cries.

The gnashing and grinding of teeth grew so loud that it had begun to sound like the harsh screech of nails on a chalkboard. The jarring sounds shook me to my core, so much so that I had begun to gnash my teeth also.

I had made it to the mouth of the cave. The exit. Or was it just another door into a terror far more frightening than the screams of what seemed like thousands, if not millions, of tortured souls? The prospect of walking through the gaping maw was daunting; however, it had to be done, if I hoped to leave this place.

Scaling the side of the mountain on borrowed limbs proved to be an arduous task. I had slipped and almost fallen more than I cared to admit. Even drenched in sweat, and struggling to draw in my next laboured breath, I had made it out of that blasted cave. The sight before me had me wishing I had stayed in the cave. I had finally found the source of the disembodied keening.

I found myself traversing between two vastly different valleys. On one side raged an all-consuming, vicious fire, and on the other, a biting hail and snow beat down obstinately on the rough terrain. Thousands of what I assumed to be sinners bore the sweltering heat and the blistering cold. This went on until these tortured souls had had enough – whereupon they’d leap into the other, where the suffering continued, albeit in a slightly different way.

It was purgatory. An expansive pit shrouded heavily in ominous shadows. A vast obscurity teeming in all manner of things that go bump in the night. The shrill screams rose in crescendo and I could see why. Beneath the choking darkness, globules of inky black flames hung suspended in the air. Ascending high out of the flaming pit, then continuing its descent just as quickly. In each globe, was a soul. A singular human soul, damned to suffer burning in agony, as a solitary creature, without even the company of their fellow damned souls around them.

So distracted by my own musings, and the horrific sight that lay before me, I failed to take notice of the menacing creature that stalked my stationary form. By then it was already too late – a pair of what felt like burning hot, scaled, elephantine appendages, thrust me violently into the screaming chasm. My anguished scream faded into the deafening din along with all the others.

And then… I was falling!

A startled gasp ripped from my throat as I sat up abruptly. A bright fluorescent light blurred my vision, and a loud, incessant beeping noise, broke the silence. “We’ve got a pulse,” stated a loud voice to my immediate left. “Vitals are stabilizing,” it continued behind the face shield, draped in medical scrubs.

I was back. I was awake. It was a dream. While vivid and so life-like, it was naught but a lucid dream. Before the relief could settle my wary bones, an errant thought struck me. If it had been only a dream, then why did my back throb as though I had been burned by a pair of monstrous hands forcefully propelling me into darkness?

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