The Artist in You

Art & Design | By Yemurai Mafi, Graphic Designmer | 21 November 2014

My childhood memories are not as depleted. The excitement, appreciation and enthusiasm I had for art was great but ever extinguished by the fact I was being nurtured into a so called perfect offspring. Never do I recall any of my fellow friends, myself included, answering “ An Artist” once cornered by the common “what do you want to be when you grow up” question. Parents would grin in delight if “Doctor” or “Pilot” was the response. Yet behind the scenes moulding clay into animals and household artefacts, twisting wire into cars and crafting kites and better plastic soccer balls (hweshe) was the order of a day well spent. Such craftsmanship required passion, patience, precision and innovative thinking, an art in all angles. Three decades have gone by and my bread is now buttered through my art talent.

These skills I possessed from the days we drew patterns for my grade one homework, my colouring books showed traces of an eye for colour and throughout high school I dried up mighty markers designing posters, branded desks, t-shirts, created tattoos and even love letters for my mates. Miraculously I found myself at the Polytechnic and it all came alive. Looking back, I know a dozen individuals that handled the pencil or crafted finer clay and wire artefacts than I did. Yet they never got their chance to showcase it to the world let alone be able to take it up as a career. Craft Markets in Harare and Johannesburg  flourish with spectacular creations and so has this trade seen individuals earning a living out of it. I feel there is greater potential in Zimbabwean arts and craft than just the handing over of such master pieces at the value of one’s daily wage.

In a bid to seek insight, I spent an hour with a team of wire craftsmen in one of Joburg’s prime areas. A friendly team who work together to meet the demand of their colourful beaded wire works,passionate about trying new dimensions of creating craft that not only serves the ornamental value but to be incorporated into household and office items. Lack of exposure is one reason why they all create similar products. These wire craftsmen are comfortable being manufactures rather than artists. Taking me back to the veteran  sculptors who sold their creations at a service station entering Rusape as well as in Mutare, who are now sadly nomore. Our Artistic heritage in the form of sculpture, basket weaving, ceramics, cloth printing will surely become history if we as a nation see no value in owning a piece or just appreciating the individuals that still create such artefacts. Awareness in the form developing curriculum around these trades would be a great move to promote and secure our heritage. It’s time we shift our mindset.

Being exposed to the greater side of art and design industries has transformed my perception and drive to break ground. Our Zimbabwean curriculum needs restructuring and intensive campaigns need to be tabled to raise awareness that will guide the youth to choose a career they are talented in. Currently our institutions offer Graphic design and fine arts alone. However there are various professions that require an artistic flair ; Industrial / Product design, Jewellery design, Architectural, landscaping, Interior design, Textile, Fashion design, photography, film production, interactive and web design. All these are vital sectors that require diverse, unique ideas and talented individuals. Such talent is within our children, siblings, friends and society. The greatest challenge is the notion that art does not bring or add as much value to one’s career in comparison to other sectors.  

I would like to challenge everyone to take up a wire or pencil if you once had it in you. Encourage those you know who possess the skills, nurture your kid’s talent by sticking up their drawings. Appreciate the Zimbabwean artists by visiting galleries and craft markets. Be it a small beaded key holder, acquiring a piece from a sculptor trying to make a name in Chitungwiza. I also appeal to the corporate players to consider funding and adopting the arts. Such actions will make and inspire  individuals  who have the talent and can use it to earn a living as well as to safe guard our Zimbabwean art heritage.