From traditional to modern scenes, art industry has experienced a major transformation over time, opening new doors especially for women who have passion to pursue a career in this creative industry which for many years has been highly dominated by men.
Martha Mtasiwa, a 29-year-old mother of two is one among such women who took her passion for painting to the next level by deciding to make a professional career out of it.
Growing up, unlike many young girls of her age who were interested in more feminine games, the case was different for Martha, who started showing interests in arts at a very young age.
“It is something I had in me ever since I was growing up my mother used to tell me that my biological father was also interested in drawing though he was doing it for fun. I had different taste of games if I must say, I remember while other girls were busy playing I was busy drawing or moulding,’’ she says.
It wasn’t until 2014, when she decided to do arts professionally “as a self-made artist going commercial was a bit challenging because I felt that I haven’t mastered all the necessary skills needed to compete out there that’s why most of my art work I sold to some close friends and other people who happened to be attracted to my work. These people happened to be the source of encouragement to what I was doing and so they helped in pushing me to better my work,” she says.
The same year, Martha joined Russian Cultural Centre where she received training once every week, something which helped her sharpen her skills in art but still felt that she needed more to reach out to the level she wanted to, “I felt that something was missing from the training and so the same year my mother connected me to Constantine Kiswanta, one of the long time artist’s in the country. He trained me how to do realistic painting, the type of painting which involves drawing real things in real environment,” explains Martha.
After mastering the skills, in 2017, she went solo and started working as an independent artist based in Kigamboni before she moved to Bagamoyo a year later where she currently lives with her husband. She earns a living through art.
While she enjoys painting, however she still feels that some of the expectations she had while starting a career as an artist have not been achieved “for instance I wanted to be recognised both locally and internationally and also to have an opportunity to do exhibitions in different countries, but it hasn’t been possible and one of the reasons has to do with my gender.
As a woman it reaches a certain point in life that you can’t afford to do certain things because of responsibilities such as becoming a mother and so balancing the two can be a challenge.”
Explaining more on what it means to be a woman in the field which is highly dominated by men, Martha says the industry has been favourable for women as it offers a lot of opportunities for them however there are some reasons which pull them back from achieving more.
“For instance, you might want to do an exhibition which will require to do a lot of preparation including having time to draw, do some follow up on venues, however sometimes families may fail to understand what we are trying to do. They think that being an artist involves people who have failed in life, But once you manage to go out, you find that there are lots of opportunities for women,” she says.
Apart from that, Martha says there have been a number of challenges she had to face to reach where she is today, “as an artist sometimes it takes time for my work to be sold and therefore I am forced to sell at a cheaper price. “It takes a lot of time and energy to complete each piece of art work, so selling the work that has taken a lot of time cheaply can be discouraging at times.”
She says the society needs to understand that women who love art especially painting have the opportunity to excel in the industry if they are given full support, “When I was starting my career as an artist, I had little support from some of my family members. They discouraged me, something which pulled me back at some point.”
But she made the decision to continue and believe in what she loved and is happy her mother understood how she felt and decided to give her the support she needed.
“We should start at the family level to give our support especially to young girls so that they can do better in whatever they want to do and achieve their goals in life,” says Martha.
She says its high time that we put more efforts to ensure that artists have a platform to showcase their work, something which could help to nurture new talents and encourage artist to keep on working hard.