It was at six years old that Pride Nyasha Mapfumo, known on social media as Pride Nyasha, got his first set of watercolor paints and paintbrushes. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, a country in southern Africa, Pride began to study art seriously while in high school.
Pride received his degree in Applied Science (Architectural Studies) at the Curtin University of Technology in Malaysia regardless of those who “think that being an artist is a waste of time.” Since then, Pride has gathered a solid following on Instagram, exploring themes in his art that he feels Christianity would not have allowed him to explore.
I had the chance to catch up with Pride over email to talk about his life as an artist, and the techniques he uses to set his art apart in the world of social media.
Q: When did you dive into art?
A: I started creating art at a very young age. I got my first set of watercolor paintbrushes and paint when I was six. Even though I didn’t know what I was doing then, I knew it made me really happy. I really dived into art when I got to high school. I studied it as a subject for six years under two great teachers!
Q: How would you describe your artistic style?
A: Well, it’s hard to describe my style because, as a human being, I am constantly evolving and I feel my art is too.... But, I think it’s definitely in the realm of expressionism.
Q: What are your favorite materials to use?
A: I enjoy using watercolors. I find them very liberating. I enjoy expressing my thoughts in a naked manner; everything on the table. They are the best medium for that, in my opinion, because of the way they blend together and how, most times, they give surprising results even to me, the artist.
Q: Does your ethnic background affect your art style?
A: My ethnic background has definitely affected my art in the sense that it challenges me to question certain values from an artistic and open-minded/realistic point of view.
Q: You seem to use a lot of warm colors, or dark colors. Is there a reason for that?
A: That’s probably just a personal preference. I always find myself using them. It, perhaps, has something to do with their aesthetic appeal, or how they compliment the message I try to convey.
Q: Your art seems pretty diverse. Do you aim to create a multi-ethnic look within the art you create?
A: Yes. I think art is universal so, when I am creating, I try to be ethnically open-minded in order to keep it relatable. Though I am sharing my own experiences most of the times, I always try to play around with how I deliver them, and that’s where the question of, ‘Which ethnicity should I use?’ comes in.
Q: Do you have a favorite art piece of yours?
A: That’s an ever-changing list. It usually depends on my mood, I guess.
Q: Who are some of your influences?
A: To me, influences are those people or artists who effortlessly inspire me to create art. While there are many of them, the ones at the top of the list are: my family (especially my mother), Sihaam, Madison Skriver, Conrad Roset, Marjory Yeko Jewitt, Agnes Cecile, Daniel Segrove, Frank Ocean, Kevin Garrett, Gallant, Paramore, Jack Garratt, Labrinth, Young the Giant and Nasi.
Q: What have you learned from those influences?
A: Plenty! Most of the lessons I can’t even begin to explain. In a nutshell, I would say the aforementioned individuals, or groups, have definitely made me a better creator-- and I’m very thankful.
Q: I've noticed you create bursting imagery in some of your art through the use of: paint splatter, flowers, butterflies, watercolor and even a blurring effect, similar to that of your portrait of Rihanna. Does that symbolize anything?
A: The blurring effects are usually experimentations unless, of course, I’m trying to communicate an idea. The paint splatters are a personal preference; I think they generally add on to the aesthetic appeal of an artwork. As for the flowers and butterflies, well, those are usually aimed to represent our fragile and beautiful sides as humans.
Q: You also create art with words, or phrases, Is that to reach more people or is it more of an experiment?
A: It’s to give an idea of the message I will be trying to convey, and in some cases, the phrases describe how I’m feeling.
Q: How do you go about naming your art pieces?
A: I name them based on social experiences. I am inspired by love and relationships-- how they affect us and how we react to it all. I know that, as a human race, we are weirdly connected. That’s why certain artworks affect people from across the world in a similar manner. So when I paint, I am really trying to share my experiences. Most of the time, I name the pieces based on personal experiences and sometimes based on the experiences of close friends and family members.
Q: Have you ever received any negative feedback on your art? Positive?
A: I have received both. Fortunately, most of the feedback has been positive. However, I feel if you don’t receive negative feedback on your art, then something is amiss. Art is a very subjective field, so people will always have different opinions on my pieces (or anyone else’s in general). What matters is how one takes the negative feedback.
Q: What caused you to go from the Christian community to Atheism?
A: I was never a Christian to begin with, honestly, I always questioned the idea of organized religion, especially, for as long as I can remember. I have nothing against religion (there are a lot of values to learn from it honestly).... I just don't accept it in its entirety.
I pretended to be a Christian just to fit in, especially in high school. That wasn't doing me justice as an artist because it meant that I would have many boundaries. For instance, if I wanted to paint nude figures, or if I wanted to explore sexual art ideas , I wouldn't do it because people around me would question my morality. I just want to be a free human being. I want to explore the good and bad sides that life has to offer, without being judged. Honestly, I guess that’s what being an artist is-- to be free (as long as what you do doesn't harm the next person, really).
Q: What is something you would like to see more of in the art world?
A: I can never get enough of boldness, so, I would love to see people push boundaries in whichever art forms they are pursuing.
Q: Do you think social media plays a huge part in sharing your art and creating a loyal fan base?
A: Definitely! Personally, I think Instagram is one of the best platforms for all creative individuals. One has to post consistently in order to get optimal results.
Q: What is your creative process?
A: I listen to a lot of music...it’s basically my religion!
Q: Are there any obstacles that you've had to overcome to become an artist?
A: I wouldn’t call them obstacles but yes, there are many people who think that being an artist is a waste of time. I have acquired great mental strength over the years in order to always keep my head high whenever I encounter such people.
Q: Was there ever a moment where you wanted to quit?
A: Honestly, no. I do doubt my abilities sometimes (which is probably normal), but I have never wanted to quit. Art consumes me and gives me the utmost freedom-- no way I’m quitting that.
Q: Is there any advice you would give to someone who is a beginning artist?
A: Maybe they're in school to become one or they're starting out sharing their work on social media. My advice to new artists would be to be open-minded and patient; to always know that it’s a process that improves with practice and vulnerability. I am personally interested in artwork that elicits some form of emotion. As an artist, I feel the more you are in touch with your thoughts, inner demons, insecurities and emotions, the better your artwork will be. So, don’t be afraid to explore your mind.