There is talent and then there is what we refer to as TALENT. After coming across this artist, one cannot dispute the fact that Mehluli Mzizi is TALENTED. When one thinks of fire and paper the vision that comes to mind is that of flames and ashes. Fire and paper for the 30 year old Bulawayo based visual artist is the same as a pencil, paint brush and paper for most visual artists. Mzizi is what you would call a fire painter. Absurd right? Well that is what we thought until we got to meet up with him.
UC. Tell us, who is the Fire Painter?
MM. My name is Mehluli Mzizi, from Bulawayo, in Zimbabwe. I am a 30 year old visual artist from Magwegwe North township. I have adopted the title “fire painter” because of my line of work.
UC. When did you start doing art?
MM. I started doing arts since I was a kid. But I struggled a lot to get this far, since I grew up in a rural set-up where there were limited resources. I didn’t do art at school. All the schools I went to, were not offering the subject. However, I kept on teaching myself up to the time I got an opportunity to go to Mzilikazi Arts and Craft centre for a year, through an International Labour Organisation’s skills development programme. That’s where I managed to acquire more skill. I did fine art, (that encompasses, pencil drawing, and a wide range of painting techniques).
UC. So after Mzilikazi Arts Craft centre what happened next?
MM. After the training, I got a certificate and I had nowhere to start from. I started doing pencil portraits on bond paper. People liked my work and they started supporting me, placing some orders. But my prizes were too low, so I couldn’t manage to procure quality materials for my art. Therefore, I was not able to exhibit any of my works anywhere. I also realised that there are a lot of bigger and more established artists, doing pencil work and traditional painting techniques. I had no competitive advantage.
UC. What is fire painting?
MM. Fire painting is a technique that incorporates drawing and painting images on paper using fire. It is a technique that I have mastered over.
UC. How did the idea first come up?
MM. I remember the day I discovered this new technique as if it was yesterday. I quickly named it, “Fire Painting”. I was seated at home one evening, and there was no electricity. I had a candle on and burning incense (mosquito repellent). Then, my artistic intuition told me I could do something with these two. I took the burning incense and a paper and started drawing on it using the incense. I kept on trying and eventually I realised this could work. I thought I knew exactly what to do, and to some degree I did, but I quickly realised it was going to take some trial and error to get to the process and finished product, just right. The first times I tried it, the paper would actually catch fire, along the way. I learnt many lessons, and each one brought me closer to my art. From there, I started developing the technique until today.
From the moment I started, I knew drawing and painting with fire on paper was going to work and I was determined to get it right. I had a great field of work to explore, and I was aware of all the potential and challenges ahead of me. I have spent four years perfecting this method and I cannot say it is an easy art form.
UC. Are you the only one who does this form of art?
MM. I am the only one I know who is doing Fire Painting, however I discovered that there is a similar technique called pyrography. But I never changed the name or my technique because when I discovered it, I didn’t know about pyrography and even if these techniques may look similar, they are done differently.
UC. How is fire painting done?
MM. Nothing more than burning logs can be used to make some seriously awesome art! Instead of using traditional pencils, or paints, I use fire on paper in order to create incredible designs. I only use a pencil to sketch, then use a combination of burning logs and any other compatible tool that can be used to complete the art.
UC. What kind of Portraits have you been painting?
MM. So far I have been creating images that incorporate wild life, landscapes and humans caught in a moment that explains so much more than what appears on the surface.
UC. What have you gained from doing this rare art form?
MM. Despite all of this experience and skills I have gained through creating some outstanding art pieces, I have also been given the chance to display my works in various arts expos. Regardless of the skill and knowledge acquired, I also admit that each project continues to teach me something new. I have now introduced sugar solution fire paintings as well. And I still believe there are more brilliant ideas yet to be discovered around this fire painting technique. I have also been inspired to venture into rust painting as well. This came to me when I saw a rusted scrap metal with some artistic forms on it. I then decided to use the same technique in creating my own art.
UC. Where do you operate from?
MM. At the moment I am working from home in Magwegwe North. Renting spaces in the Central Business District is expensive and currently I cannot afford to rent a studio.
UC. Where do you see Fire painting in the next 5years?
MM. As the world is driving towards sustainable goals, art forms are also slowly shifting in that direction. I see this technique playing a major role in all of this. All that is requires is fire therefore it is cheaper and much more economic to use this technique. Fire painting although it requires skill and technique is the future.
UC. Thank you for spending time with us we wish you the best in you work
MM. I appreciate your time as well. Thank you for having me on this platform.
Well there you have it. We continue bringing you the best of talent as we can find it.