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Creative Outlet

We Are Living In A Visual Age – Jethro Longwe, Malawian Artist & Illustrator

I always wanted to be different and do what made me happy, which was art.

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We Are Living In A Visual Age - Jethro Longwe, Malawian Artist & Illustrator Asante Afrika Magazine
Jethro Longwe Art

Raised by a father who was a mathematician and engineer, who obviously would have loved it if his only son had followed in his footsteps, Jethro was ‘not about that life‘, as millennials say, and he had other plans for his career path. As a young boy growing up in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia, Jethro already enjoyed drawing so much and was improving his skill by the day. Read on to find out how he nurtured his love for art and also became an amazing Graphics Illustrator.

What made you deviate so much from your dad’s field from a very young age? What inspired your love for art?

Growing up I never spent much time with my dad, so I found myself drawn so much to drawing from a very young age, around 10 or 11. I didn’t even know that it was art. I just loved drawing things around me, and that grew to me painting later.

They say “the forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest”, and that was the case with you and your love for art. What made you persist with drawing, even though your parents had told you to stop?

My father was very strict and tough on us, me especially being the only boy, so I never really admired his career. I always wanted to be different and do what made me happy, which was art.

We Are Living In A Visual Age - Jethro Longwe, Malawian Artist & Illustrator Asante Afrika Magazine
Jethro Longwe Art

You enrolled at the University of Malawi hoping to study art, only to find that their programme was more theoretical and centred in Art History. What did you then decide to major in, and why?

I decided to major in Music because I grew up in a society that never encouraged art as a career. Even though I loved art, I defaulted to music which I also love, with the hope that I would become a music teacher in a private high school.

Though you majored in music and went on to become a music teacher after graduation, totally quitting art for about four years, you stated that art always gave you a certain peace and calmness within. At what point did you finally decide to drop teaching music and focus solely on art?

I decided to completely dive into art full time in 2014. At this point teaching music was so stressful, and I felt like I was not growing.

“There is so much potential in Malawi, and I feel like a lot of young people are missing out on this wonderful discourse.”

Before and throughout university, you focused on pencil art. What or who made you switch to paints and watercolours, and how was that transition?

When I was in First year, I met a social science student who loved art, and she was impressed with my pencil work; she then she showed me some of her paintings, and challenged me to start painting. Initially, I was scared of the switch. Here I was at the top of my pencil game, and I knew switching would mean going back to square one. Much to my surprise, painting was easy and fun, and I really enjoyed it from the onset.

We Are Living In A Visual Age - Jethro Longwe, Malawian Artist & Illustrator Asante Afrika Magazine
Jethro Longwe Art

What kind of art do you focus on, or enjoy the most?

I love painting wilds cats, lions and leopards mostly. I also enjoy recreating my own African scenes, breaking away from the popular movements of African art, more like fictional art but in my own unique way. I enjoy using multi-canvases. I think I was largely influenced by my love for geometry. (Ah, so he does have a little love for his dad’s favourite subject in him, lol).

We Are Living In A Visual Age - Jethro Longwe, Malawian Artist & Illustrator Asante Afrika Magazine
Jethro Longwe Art
We Are Living In A Visual Age - Jethro Longwe, Malawian Artist & Illustrator Asante Afrika Magazine
Jethro Longwe Art

Your wildlife paintings are exquisite. Do you spend a lot of time in the great outdoors camping etc. to get inspiration?

In my childhood years especially, we went to a lot of wildlife reserves, national parks, and zoos. I also lived in areas that had a lot of wildlife and nature, so that formed my love for wild animals. As an adult I haven’t had much time for adventure, but plans are underway to probably spend more time in the wild and do art… that is my dream.

We Are Living In A Visual Age - Jethro Longwe, Malawian Artist & Illustrator Asante Afrika Magazine
Jethro Longwe Art
We Are Living In A Visual Age - Jethro Longwe, Malawian Artist & Illustrator Asante Afrika Magazine
Jethro Longwe Art

Since you started painting full time, you don’t sleep much, at one time going for 3 days straight without sleep. How do you manage to stay focused on what you are doing, without making fatigue-induced errors?

There is something magical about loving what you do. You lose track of time and your level of focus is so intense. I read somewhere where Beyonce was in the studio for 2 days, and forgot to eat. I love art so much to the point where if I don’t paint for 3 days, I start getting agitated, and after a week, I start feeling sick, suffering from all kinds of body pains and headaches, hahaha. I am truly obsessed with art!

You mentioned that some of the personal challenges which you faced have actually inspired you to produce some of your best art. How did you manage to pick up a brush and gather the strength to paint when you were going through emotional challenges which sometimes led to depression?

Since I was a child, art has always been a place of safety for me mentally. The moment I start to do art, my mind becomes clear, free, no stress, and I end up creating artworks that even blow my mind. I believe it’s a gift I was given to bless others, and to refresh my mind and body. Over the years, I have learned to throw myself more in art… it’s a peaceful and beautiful place to be.

We Are Living In A Visual Age - Jethro Longwe, Malawian Artist & Illustrator Asante Afrika Magazine
Jethro Longwe Abstract Art

When you were now painting full time, you treasured your art pieces so much and totally refused to sell them. When a friend from Brazil offered to buy some of your art, you charged him an exorbitant amount which you hoped would deter him from making that purchase. When he was not deterred and gave you the cash upfront, did you not regret not having sold your art from the beginning?

Not I didn’t regret, even though I needed the money. Every painting is like a part of me, and even up to today, selling my art is not easy. But I have learned that I must bless other people with my gift. The more I share, the more I realise how big this gift is, and the more I get new ideas and inspiration.

Can you tell us about the Graphics Design course which you did in Cape Town? What did you specialise in, and why did you choose to do that course?

I have always wanted to do graphics design since 2015, but I just didn’t have the time, and I didn’t know where. So when I went to Ruth Prowse School of Art to do Fine Art, I decided to switch to graphics design because I already was into art and painting. Graphics design was about visual communication, and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of art with a function. I learned about marketing and advertising, colour theory, typography, illustration, digital art, etc. I really love it and I plan to go for further studies in graphic design, especially illustration, and animation.

You and a few other artists we have come across have lamented the lack of Graphics Design schools in Malawi. Do you plan on sharing your knowledge and skills with the youth, and if so, how?

God willing, I want to start a school along those lines. There is so much potential in Malawi, and I feel like a lot of young people are missing out on this wonderful discourse. Visual communication is in everything these days. We are living in a visual age.

We Are Living In A Visual Age - Jethro Longwe, Malawian Artist & Illustrator Asante Afrika Magazine
Jethro Longwe Art
We Are Living In A Visual Age - Jethro Longwe, Malawian Artist & Illustrator Asante Afrika Magazine
Jethro Longwe Art

You have plans to further your education again in South Africa. Can you tell us about the Master’s programme you plan to enrol in and how it will enhance your career?

I want to do a Master’s Programme in Visual Communication, focusing on Children’s Education, and hopefully, do a doctoral degree as well after that. I want to have a say that will have an influence in the academic circles in Malawi concerning Art Education. If you have a PhD, key people listen to you and respect you. I plan to create art curriculum for schools, and other useful materials. I also want to be a role model for many young artists in Malawi, challenging them to aim higher. I grew up without any role model so it was trial and error situation, but now kids will not have to go through that, they can make use of my experiences and skills.

We Are Living In A Visual Age - Jethro Longwe, Malawian Artist & Illustrator Asante Afrika Magazine
Jethro Longwe Art

What are your parting words to budding African artists who might not necessarily have the support of their parents or families?

Its tough, but its possible! If you really want it, you can do it, and it’s worth it. Keep pushing, discipline yourself and a way will eventually come up.

Connect with Jethro and check out more of his work via his website, www.jethrolongwe1.wixsite.com/onlinegallery, Facebook, @JethroLongwe, and his Instagram page, @jethrolongwe.

Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu

admin@asanteafrika.net

Creative Outlet

Artist Tsibisho Matsetela – Anything Can Be Art Supplies

I would be lying if I said adding a big gallery to the mix wouldn’t be the mother of all pluses

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Artist Tsibisho Matsetela - Anything Can Be Art Supplies Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Tsibisho Matsetela Art
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When you think of art and how it is made, ‘expensive’ is a word that comes to mind. For so long the art scene has been a sector for the rich who could afford to either buy or make the art. The cost of canvases and paints is one I am sure most African parents wouldn’t be able to meet or not see as worthwhile. But what do you do when the talent is there? Well, Tsibisho Matsetela is an artist whose work could be the answer to that question. The South African artist doesn’t need much but a lot of items one can find around the house to create his work; from maize meal to coffee, it all works.

Hailing from the province of Limpopo in South African, Matsetela has always been a creative. This first presented itself in dance back in his school days in the rural areas, and has morphed into inspired artwork. He describes himself as a visual artist with a knack for discovering new material to incorporate into his work.

Artist Tsibisho Matsetela - Anything Can Be Art Supplies Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Tsibisho Matsetela Art

What inspired the use of food in your art?

I have always wanted to be different; yes I make art, but there are so many other talented artists out there. It’s an influence in my work that has been with me since I was in school.

Artist Tsibisho Matsetela - Anything Can Be Art Supplies Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Tsibisho Matsetela Art

“The most memorable one would have to be a drawing of Mr. Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister of Art and Culture which I attempted using IWISA maize-meal.”

Where do you get your ideas from?

I get my ideas from my surroundings; the rainbow nation is a melting pot of inspiration, if one pays attention. Bare in mind, I don’t mean from the so-called ‘wow’ stuff which is out there, but simple everyday stuff. A lot of my inspiration also comes from other black South African Artists whom I look up to.

What is the craziest type of food you have used?

(Laughs) Maize-meal and coffee.

Artist Tsibisho Matsetela - Anything Can Be Art Supplies Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Tsibisho Matsetela Art

Any projects that didn’t work out or go as planned?

I really have to think, and not because all my ideas work out, (a pause). The most memorable one would have to be a drawing of Mr. Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister of Art and Culture which I attempted using IWISA maize-meal. Let’s just say the project came with unforeseen complications, but who knows, I might try again one day. It’s all a trial and error game.

How do you currently market your creations?

At the moment social media is my best friend, and of course if I can showcase at an event, I take full advantage of such opportunities.

Artist Tsibisho Matsetela - Anything Can Be Art Supplies Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Tsibisho Matsetela Art

Any particular artists that influence your art?

I would have to say Percy Maimela and Ennock Mlangeni, both are visual artists. Their work constantly challenges me to do better, be bolder, and think outside the box.

Any dreams of collaborating on a project?

Working with any artist is a big deal, and collaboration is a good way to get my creative juices flowing, but I would be lying if I said adding a big gallery to the mix wouldn’t be the mother of all pluses.

Artist Tsibisho Matsetela - Anything Can Be Art Supplies Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Tsibisho Matsetela Art

Any art gallery in particular at the top of the collaboration list?

Yes, Melrose Arch Art Gallery. It’s an amazing platform, and such an opportunity would get my art recognised, and most definitely set a tone for my career.

Where do you see your art in five years?

God-willing, I will most definitely be creating more and sharing my talent with the world. I hope to be working with renowned galleries not only in South Africa, but around the world.

Artist Tsibisho Matsetela - Anything Can Be Art Supplies Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Tsibisho Matsetela Art
Artist Tsibisho Matsetela - Anything Can Be Art Supplies Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Tsibisho Matsetela Art

Where can anyone looking to get in contact with you to buy your art or collaborate with you find you?

They can email me at: tsibishom8@gmail.com
Find me on Facebook: Tsibisho Lesiba
or Instagram: tsibisho_artworks

Interviewed by Hazel Lifa

hazel@asanteafrika.net

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Creative Outlet

A Chat With Malawian Graphic Designer, Calysto Mnyanga

Working on things or art that impacts people’s lives for the better is far more rewarding than working for money.

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A Chat With Malawian Graphic Designer, Calysto Mnyanga Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Calysto Mnyanga

Graphics designer/artist, Calysto Mnyanga’s story embodies the term, “It doesn’t matter how you start, but how you finish”. His early life was not the most stable; after losing both his parents at a pretty young age, Mnyanga had to move around a lot. At the beginning of his career, he playfully drew stickmen, till his run-in with Dragon Ball Z that influenced his work.

The artist’s unfortunate expulsion from Marist Brothers Secondary school is not his best moment, but it afforded him the opportunity to meet fellow artists who opened his artistry to the themes of metaphysics, religion and science. After high school, the graphics designer attended Malawi Polytechnic where he studied Land Economy, which didn’t pan out, but pointed him in the direction he is in today.

Today Calysto works as a multi-media designer for the Jupiter Drawing Room in Namiwawa, Blantyre, where he develops concepts and marketing material for different brands for consumption on different mediums like print and social media. Staying true to his creative side, he dabbles in filmmaking and travel photography. We caught up with the creative for a chat.

A Chat With Malawian Graphic Designer, Calysto Mnyanga Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Calysto Mnyanga

Let’s take it from the top, how did you get into graphic design?

I started using Photoshop around 2010 on my friends’ computers. Eventually, I got my own in 2013. I experimented with different software and found myself leaning more towards motion design. In 2015 after university, I got a job at Times Group as a graphic designer, where I developed TV Program Identities (Logo, Background, Intro, etc.), and produced programs for Times TV. After a year I interned at FD Communications, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to quit my job. In the following years, I experimented more and worked with various people, before deciding to join the Jupiter Drawing Room in late 2018.

Did you study graphic design?

We don’t do that here, lol. Umm, I would have loved to, but unfortunately, our country doesn’t have enough credible institutions.

Would you describe your work as art?

Yes. What I create is a mirror of my experiences, the good, the bad, the doubts, and all things human, my own unique way of understanding things. It’s often hard finding a way of showing or expressing that, and having the honour of different people (some I will never even meet), having those people relate to your work and seeing, experiencing different things, unearthing hidden gems that even I the creator didn’t imagine were there. Also, how those simple creations have shaped the course of my life and inspired others, that’s art!

A Chat With Malawian Graphic Designer, Calysto Mnyanga Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Calysto Mnyanga

What would you consider that project that gave you a run for your money and proved to be difficult?

Art Direction & Branding for Tumaini Festival 2017 to 2019

How did you pull it off?

I learnt early that collaboration is key. So, bouncing ideas of my peers, being open to and admitting ignorance, which to me means being humble enough to ask questions, no matter how trivial they may seem. And establishing the connection between the work and its intended audience. Most times we might get caught up in our own artistic vision that we lose sight of who the work is meant for.

What group of people can you identify as giving you the most love for your work?

That’s a tricky one, but I would say progressive thinkers who enjoy having their ideas or thoughts challenged by new information, and knowledge seekers. I tend to hide symbolism in my work.

A Chat With Malawian Graphic Designer, Calysto Mnyanga Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Calysto Mnyanga

I had a look at your IG and I have to say, your work is out there! What inspires you and the colours you use?

I draw inspiration from everything really, daily conversations, etc., but in recent years, African history and the current state of us as a people have been a driving force with regards to the roles and spaces African creators will occupy in the near future. I would like to say that there is a particular method to how I work, but at the moment I am still ironing out a few kinks. But one constant is being curious; it motivates me to create and explore ways of storytelling.

Where do you want to be in five, ten years with your work?

Five years from now I would love to be part of a team creating and curating Malawian stories to the world through art, design & filmmaking.

A Chat With Malawian Graphic Designer, Calysto Mnyanga Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Calysto Mnyanga

You stated that Malawi has no formal education set up for the arts. How do you plan on combating that hurdle?

I would love 10 years from now to be teaching art and design in Malawi, while still focusing on art curation, working on my passion projects, and telling my stories to inspire the next generation.

A Chat With Malawian Graphic Designer, Calysto Mnyanga Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Calysto Mnyanga

Any dream collaborations in mind?

Karabo Poppy (IG: @karabo_poppy) is definitely number one right now! I love how her art communicates freedom of expression and storytelling in the most subtle ways possible. That level of simplicity is unmatched. Other than that, working with travel and tourism brands.

A Chat With Malawian Graphic Designer, Calysto Mnyanga Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Calysto Mnyanga
A Chat With Malawian Graphic Designer, Calysto Mnyanga Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Calysto Mnyanga

What is the most random/outrageous lesson your work has taught you thus far, both professionally and personally?

The most random thing I have learnt personally & professionally is that working on things or art that impacts people’s lives for the better is far more rewarding than working for money. Not to say getting paid for your work is bad, but when there is a positive impact beyond the monetary value, it makes everything worth doing.

If you are looking to get in contact with the graphic designer/artist hybrid go to:
Instagram: @kvnobi
Twitter: @kvnobi
Email: hello@kvnobi.com
Website: www.kvnobi.com

Interviewed by Hazel Lifa

hazel@asanteafrika.net

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Creative Outlet

Stitch – A Poem By Ntua Edia

Fear not to be alone,
To be the only daughter standing in the crowd, without a man to her side like armour.

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Stitch - A Poem By Ntua Edia Asante Afrika Magazine
Image Source: Anita Stitch

Our mothers’ prayers are not enough to help us accept the hurt given.
They come in little wrapped packages of anger, anxiousness, and corrections that we learn by giving the things that we want.
So sometimes even after all the consciousness of how we throw ourselves in love,
We don’t believe in these figures,
Thighs too thin, or too thick to belong.

A generation of strong women,
Who feel that accepting the hurt on them is a commitment of their colour.
Who still try to tie around their waist, garments that complete their search;
Fear not to be alone,
To be the only daughter standing in the crowd, without a man to her side like armour.
Armour, they say, comes this way with willingness and submission,
Stillness and patience.
So sometimes, we bring the best of us out to the wrong spaces, with bodies that can’t even support the overlapping part.
Shade the visible veins on these leaves.
Teaching them the same story,
To shame their act of love.
Desires to be immersed in the warmth.
Hands on their shoulders,
Feet on the ground

They stitch these wounds alone, with no one.
Napping their babies to be perfect women.
Accepting they are heroes while on the ground.
Today, I stitch for a sister, daughter, best friend, mother I am to be.

Copyright Ntua Edia 2021

Instagram: @edia_in_kigali.

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