Stainer Chindebvu: Malawi's Visual Arts Export

Franziska Maria Fay

Global processes of change and their influences on people’s lives are at the heart of Malawian artist Stainer Chindebvu’s works. His paintings mirror this engagement and his artistic growth between the realities of his native home in Malawi, his life in Germany and beyond.

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The artist at work

Stainer Chindebvu | The Artist

Born in Blantyre, Malawi in 1988, Chindebvu is now based in Berlin, Germany, studying Bildende Kunst (Fine Arts) at Universität der Künste (Berlin University of the Arts). He relocated to Berlin, settling in one of the few European metropolises left which is still accessible for a multitude of artists from around the world. Chindebvu’s works explore the influences of global processes on culture, society and nature. He engages with the effects of these consequences on people’s everyday lives and aims to sensitize people to the persistent instability and continuous change of the world. His works are a visual expression of his perspective on the world and show the paths and ideas he followed throughout his artistic development. This confrontation of inner reflections and outer experiences creates delicate individual pieces that, according to the artist, intuitively develop in reference to his stream of thoughts. The images he creates are contemporary and daring. They speak of the past and look critically at the present, often in a questioning way that challenges the beholder with the characters directly gazing out of the paintings speaking to an audience. ‘What We Say’, ‘Many Ways’, ‘Suppressed Thoughts’, ‘A Better Place in Time’, ‘Listening’ – the titles of some of his works reflect his critical engagement with the world as he sees it, contesting the inevitability of globalization and pointing to the tensions arising out of it. His art asks: whose voices are heard in the global arena, what ways of development are promoted as the ‘best’ ones and whose thoughts have the power to become ‘truths’? His images tell stories of people’s lives in times of globalization and interlace different cultural realities from a non-Eurocentric point of view, making his works refreshingly innovative.

‘I Feel It’ and ‘Listening’

‘I Feel It’ and ‘Listening’

‘I Feel It’ and ‘Listening’ from his art series The Shaking World show Chindebvu’s engagement with the never static realities – shaking worlds – around him and reflect his search for his own artistic line. The figures painted resemble the artist, with their introspective look expressing a feeling between hesitation and incorporation of something not materially visible in the works, but omnipresent through the intensity that is created.

‘Losing Thought’ and ‘Suppressed Thoughts’

‘Losing Thought’ and ‘Suppressed Thoughts’

‘Losing Thought’ and ‘Suppressed Thoughts’ belong to the series Papers and Thoughts, which zooms in on themes such as human interaction, wishful thinking and memory. Thoughts in the form of papers filled with writing, seemingly rejected, make this work a metaphor for the daily life of Chindebvu’s generation: countless options to choose from alongside different development paradigms contesting each other – one might easily lose thought. With the works of this series he manages to surpass artificial boundaries between people and culture, pointing to the universality of thought and memory and taking it as a unifier for people beyond borders. His modernist style, somewhere between impressionism and surrealism, speaks about such familiar challenges in a unique but accessible way.

‘The Bartender’ and ‘The Resolute’

‘The Bartender’ and ‘The Resolute’

‘The Bartender’ and ‘The Resolute’ are part of the series Resolution, which attempts to merge aspects of his former art series in one definitive approach. His semi-abstract use of warm and intense colors supports the messages evoked by his paintings. His layering technique creates an image of the many facets the artist addresses with his works.Critically inspired by the people and processes surrounding him – human and nature equally – he channels his engagement with it through the expressive medium of paint. The people of his native Malawi, their stories and experiences, are often at the centre of his paintings. He picks up on Malawi’s political reality, the influences of development structures, the circulation of people and goods and the consequences and arising conflicts of this on the country. Since 2007, Chindebvu has exhibited his works in Lilongwe, Malawi and Berlin, Germany. The works from his recent exhibitions Transitions (2014), Resolution (2014) and The Shaking World (2013) were all created between 2012 and 2014. Until April 2015, his art series The Shaking World, Papers and Thoughts and Resolution can be seen at Transitions exhibition by Podiumensa in Berlin. Transitions combines his different stages of artistic development and shows the transformation experienced by the artist. He is currently also involved in Klaus Guingand’s international art event ‘Art Warning the World’ in Paris, France. You can find an impressive selection of Chindebvu’s works on his website. By Franziska Fay

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