POWELL Matsongoni (48) did not dream of becoming an artist in his early childhood.
The thought was very far away from him, but ironically he is now a renowned artist, who has been recollecting and telling stories about his experience with nature through paint and brush.
Despite not having artistic ambitions, the exposure to nature at a young age and his experience during his childhood laid the groundwork for the big artist that he is today.
Most of his work stems from memories of his adventurous life with his grandfather when he was young.
Matsongoni, a father of two children, a girl and a boy, lived with his grandparents in Kadoma since he was a one year old after he was taken by his grandparents from his parents who lived at Thornhill Airbase in Gweru. His grandfather was a traditional healer and when he was around four years, he would often take him along to the forests, where he collected herbs which he used as traditional medicine.
While his grandfather was occupied with digging roots and plucking out tree leaves, the young Matsongoni found time to chase after birds, lizards and other animals that he found amusing.
“Consequently, it is during these adventurous moments with my grandfather that I learnt so much about nature and fell in love with it, but I never thought that someday it would influence my imagination as a person,” said Matsongoni.
With the love of nature having been instilled in him by his grandfather, another inspiration was waiting along the way, which would open the door towards a career in art.
Matsongoni counts himself lucky as he got an opportunity to learn how to draw and put down his thoughts using a brush and paint at a school where his aunty worked as a teacher.
“During the holidays when I was around eight years old, I would go to my aunt’s place in Ngezi where she works as an art teacher. I would attend most of her lessons and this inspired me to become the artist that I have become today. I would have access to art supplies from other children with paintbrushes and colour pencils,” said Matsongoni.
“When I think of drawing, most of the time I recollect and imagine things that are related to my childhood experience with nature. I draw trees, birds, animals, and wild fruits and all my artistic imagination goes back to the forest and my experience with nature during my childhood.”
When he got to high school, Matsongoni joined the Library Art Club and then later attended the National Art Gallery BAT Visual Art Studios and this contributed to refining his skills as an artist.
Matsongoni has become one of the best visual artists in Zimbabwe, who are earning a living out of art.
He has won several art awards including Best Picture Aids Wall on Tiles in Chicago in 2001, Special Mention Award Delta Gallery Exhibition from the Greek Embassy in 2000, and Special Mention Verandah Gallery in 1999.
Recently, Matsongoni exhibited several pieces of art that tell stories on issues affecting the environment including a tale of Vultures, and Wetlands Life among other things.
To Matsongoni art has become a profession and his source of income. He has been going well since he has been focusing on topical themes like the environment and wildlife issues faced in Zimbabwe.
“Art has become my life and I have been making a living out of it. On average I make US$600 per month and sometimes on a good day, I can make even US$1000,” he says.
“I even taught my children several aspects that relate to art. My son has an eye for art. He does most of the background for most of my art pieces, but as for the girl I would want her to become an accountant so that she can manage the business,” added Matsongoni.
The organiser of the Exhibition at Borrowdale Race Course Market, Vicky Bowen commended Matsongoni for his talent in art saying that his pieces are extraordinary.
“Powell’s work is eye-catching and it is impossible to miss it whenever you come across his exhibition. Looking at his art one can tell that it is something that a person has designed using the imagination of the things that they already know about,” said Bowen.
One of the customers who purchased Matsongoni’s art piece, Trina Cain added that the art piece she bought from him under the theme, “Wetlands Life” is something that brings things to life just by looking at it.