After not being able to make a living from their artistic skill and creativity due to current economic circumstances, visual artists must continue pushing hard to overcome the challenges they are facing.
So says full-time visual artist Titi Tshilumba, whose livelihood has been affected in recent years, with the pandemic pushing back the release of his newest project.
“The pandemic affected everyone and as a visual artist, it was a tough pill to swallow and it’s still going down so slow.
“Most of our art suppliers ran out of materials, which pushed us to start ordering from neighbouring countries, which was not easy due to the closure of the border,” says Tshilumba.
The local art and craft market has become non-existent, and artists have had to create alternatives for online businesses.
“Not even tourists could we see in town,” says Tshilumba, adding that the visual arts industry depends heavily on international visitors.
Known for his figurative paintings of people, animals and traditional objects, Tshilumba is working on a new project titled ‘The Source’ which he hopes to exhibit early next year.
“The paintings will explore themes around the protection of women,” says Tshilumba.
He has been working on this project for almost two years, during which he has struggled to find studio space, good quality supplies and frames.
Works to look out for include ‘The Connection’ which depicts a mother transmitting key messages to her kids.
“That means the real educator is the mother,” says Tshilumba.
Another is ‘The Sign’, again depicting the lives of women and children, as well as ‘Milestone’ which examines survival in the face of obstacles.
Tshilumba says he will continue working hard to reach the next level in his art.
So far he has taken part in various exhibitions including ‘Art Inside’ at the National Art Gallery of Namibia and ‘Moments of Light’ (Dias Machate Benefit Fund Exhibition). In 2014, Tshilumba hosted his first solo exhibition titled ‘La Passion de Vivre’ at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre.
This allowed him to showcase his art outside the country, in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of a campaign to end gender-based violence.
Tshilumba grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he was introduced to formal art training by his elder brother. He first studied ceramics and later drawing and painting at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Lubumbashi. He made a living from doing portrait painting until he was forced to leave his home country in 1999, first seeking shelter in Zambia before moving to Namibia in 2010.