In life, there are people who are gifted with abilities that others can only dream of. As an artist, Furaha Mwakitalu is one of those people blessed with an ability. The 26-year-old has nurtured the creative craft of drawing, using it to leverage and sustain a living in Dar es Salaam.
Being a talented artist, Furaha does not use much effort to show-off his talent. What he does is conspicuous on its own. Visitors entering the new bank block at Mlimani City Shopping Mall in Dar es Salaam are welcomed by an elaborate array of artwork done by Mwakitalu.
Most visitors get an eye-full of his work, spending a few minutes feasting at Furaha’s artistic talent while most times he is busy putting some final touches on a portrait of a customer.
In front of him there is a simple shelf, on which some of his drawings are placed; pictures of well-known people in Tanzania adorn the attractive assortment of artwork.
Some of these famous figures are; Bishop Josephat Gwajima, former Miss Tanzania Nancy Sumari, Bongo movie actress Irene Paul, just to name a few.
Furaha says his passion for drawing started when he was in primary school, that’s when he began practicing the art. However, it was not until 2011 when he decided to take his art seriously. This was after finishing a Diploma in Architecture in Mbeya.
The same year, Furaha came to Dar es Salaam where he met with two young men; Charles Barton and Hussein Twahili, who happened to share the same talent in art. They teamed up and after a while, opened an Instagram page called ‘the Multitalented People (MTP)’.
Although Furaha is a qualified architect, his love for drawing is second to none. “I enjoy drawing just like other people enjoy their jobs. It is the way of expressing myself and my feelings,” he says.
How he started
Furaha embarked on his art career with only Sh70,000 as start-up capital. He bought three photo frames at Sh15,000 each and used the remaining amount for pencils and other small stuff he needed for drawing.
Unlike his two other partners, who are employed as civil servants, Furaha opted for self-employment soon after he finished his Diploma course. Today, Furaha says he is happy because he can generate more than a million a week, depending on the number of customers he receives. He charges between Sh150,000 and Sh1m per drawing depending on the complexity of the picture. He can manage to draw one picture a day or four different pictures a week.
Furaha says most of his clients send soft copies of their photos through mobile while others bring hard copies of their pictures for him to draw. Although his two partners are employed, they are both draw, albeit part time.
Any job has its challenges. For Furaha, what gives him headache are some original photos he receives from clients for him to draw.
“Some of them send photos that have little details either due to their poor quality; they are not sharp and clear. Others want me to start working on their portrait without an advance payment. They would either delay in paying or in collecting their finished work,” he explains.
Despite some challenges, Furaha says he is still happy that through his artistic talent he has managed to create employment to other youth. He opened a car wash services at Mbagala where he’s employed six youth. He also ventured into agriculture. He bought a five-acre farm where he grows rice as well as different types of fruits.
“I am happy because my dream came true, I remember when I started the drawing business my parents didn’t understand me. It took them years to believe in me. Now, I can manage to support my parents,” says Furaha, who is now taking a one-year music course at BASATA.
Furaha and his friends are in the final process of establishing a drawing class for children. He says teaching drawing to children will help them master the art from an early age.
“Drawing classes will be for primary and secondary school students. We want to share what we have with our young brothers and sisters from Standard One up to Form Four. This will be another achievement in our career,” he says.
Furaha urges young people to work hard, discover their talents and above all believe in themselves. “Do not let the outside voices destroy your ambitions,” he advises.
One of his favourite drawings in that of president Magufuli. “I love the artistic skills I put in the portrait of President Magufuli. I would love to give it to him as a gift, a token of appreciation for his service to the country. However, I don’t know how I will be able to meet him or present my art work to the president,” he says.
One of the visitors at Mlimani City Shopping centre, Damian Machumu, an entrepreneur, was amazed by Furaha’s artistic talent, advising him to draw more pictures of different world leaders and try to look for a market at their respective embassies in Dar es Salaam.