JACK ZIMBA, Lusaka
WHEN Kaziwe Malanda was led to the place where President Edgar Lungu was seated, he wondered whether he was going to get a thumbs-up for his piece of art or a thumbs-down. Would his ‘magic picture’ impress the President?
Kaziwe was anxious and overwhelmed being in the same room with the President for the first time. Not knowing exactly what to say, he mumbled a few words.
“I was looking at the President to see his reaction. That was the most important thing to me,” he says.
When the artwork was unwrapped and presented to the President, the first word he said was “Wow!”
“What is this,” the President enquired, amused at the piece of hardwood with his picture imbedded in it.
“This is a picture in wood,” the young man tried to explain. “So you are able to see the wood and the picture at the same time.”
The President then extended his hand to shake the young man’s hand.
At that point, Kaziwe knew he had nailed it. His new invention had wowed everyone – from the man on the street to the President. He knew he had discovered his forte.
“It was a dream-come-true – a game-changer. The President loved it,” he says.
“It made me think there was no limit to this,” he adds.
When President Lungu enquired about the price of the magic picture, Kaziwe refused to sell, instead offering it as a gift to the President.
Kaziwe discovered the technic of imbedding images into wood while studying design and technology at Technical and Vocational Training Centre in Luanshya in 2015.
After graduating from high school, he pursued a number of business ideas, but was never really successful at any of them. He became frustrated.
“The frustrations that I was going through started compelling me to start a business where I could make something that people would need,” he says.
That is when he decided to study a technical course.
“I thought for me to be a balanced citizen, I needed to have some technical skills,” he says.
He says the urge to create stuff was so strong in him and it pushed him to start something.
Some of his inspirations came from motivational books he had read. He quotes Napoleon Hill, but one of his biggest inspiration came from a book he read by economist Chibamba Kanyama.
In it, he read about the business culture of the Jews and that changed his perspective on life and awoke the entrepreneurial spirit in him.
Reading has always been an important part of Kaziwe’s life. It was something his father taught him when he was a boy.
His father, Peter Malanda, lectured business courses at various colleges and university, and was widely read.
Kaziwe’s first practical assignment at college was to carve a shield out of wood, but Kaziwe wanted to make something unique, something better.
“I was home and a thought struck me, ‘what if I could put a picture on the front of the shield’,” he says.
That idea led him into a quest for knowledge and a series of experiments.
The first impression he ever did was a portrait of his wife on a small piece of wood. His wife loved it.
He did not know what to call it that time, so he just called it ‘Magic picture’.
He achieves this by soaking the wood in water before impregnating it with pigments. The exact process is his little secret.
Kaziwe’s big moment, however, came a year later.
One September afternoon in 2016, Kaziwe was idling at home while looking at the small piece of wood bearing his wife’s image, then he thought “why don’t I make something for the President?”
It was his light bulb moment.
He immediately created a makeshift studio in his house where he was going to make the magic picture from.
When it comes to executing a plan, Kaziwe believes in impulse.
“I believe when you want something done, don’t start thinking how it’s going to be done, just start doing it,” he says.
After two unsuccessful trials, Kaziwe finally managed to imbed the picture of President Lungu and his wife into the piece of timber shaped into a heart.
His struggle now was how to get it to the President.
An opportunity presented itself when the President was scheduled to travel to Ndola to watch a match between Zambia and Nigeria. And that is how Kaziwe found himself with the President.
Since then, Kaziwe has created more portraits of President Lungu. Two of them were sold for over K200,000 at an auction to raise money for the Patriotic Front.
Another of his works is the portrait-in-wood of Ghanian President Akufo-Addo, and it is probably hang on the wall of that country’s State House.
Another large piece – a portrait of first president Kenneth Kaunda in his heyday – was bought for K200,000 by the Ndola Museum.
Kaziwe also did a piece for the American R&B group Boys II Men when it visited the country last year.
He only had one problem – how to meet the group and present his art work to them. The group was impressed to see their own image imbedded in wood.
That piece of wood is now on the wall of some building in America.
Kaziwe says the good thing about his artworks is that when well preserved, wood can last for ages.
Kaziwe also makes beautiful frames out of discarded wood shavings he picks from a local workshop. It is his way of turning waste into something beautiful and valuable.
Interestingly, Kaziwe had no prior interest in any form of art – well apart from music. He sang at a local Seventh Day Adventist church.
And he also gave a shot at movie-making, although he never quite got the hang of it. His first movie has never left the screen of his laptop computer.
The 33-year-old has big dreams for his discovery.
His dream is to go commercial with his idea and create employment for the youth.
“We are all looking to government for answers, but we have things here that require only a bit of creativity, and we would create jobs,” he says.
“It’s time we stopped looking outside for solutions. We should look outside for inspiration,” he says.
JACK ZIMBA, Lusaka