By Love MSOSO.
For those people who’ve known me for years, they know that I’ve always been an avid fan of creative arts. For whatever reason, this talent has always intrigued me. Personally, I believe that the principle of true art is not to portray but to evoke. That is why when I had bumped into the crafty artworks of one dreadlocked young man, Suzgo Ntenda, I just knew I had what I cherish most.
Suzgo Ntenda is not just your everyday Lilongwe young man. He is one hell of an artist whose handworks would leave you mouth agape; speechless! Simply put, he’s in a class of his own in screen printing, sign writing, and hand drawings. When it comes to these three, he’s a master!
If you think I’m exaggerating, then take a trip to his work place; Mambo Arts and Screen Printing at the now famous Lizulu Market opposite Toyota Malawi in Lilongwe. Sample his products and for sure you’ll appreciate the dexterity that Suzgo possesses.
Born about 33 years ago, Suzgo’s rise to stardom grew out of his childhood passion. A passion to be self-reliant. He is one of the rare breeds who believed in self-employment. Upon our chat, he revealed to me that the field had been his childhood passion.
“Drawing had been my childhood pastime activity. I used to eat, drink and wine hand drawings when I was young. I had an innate passion for this field from way back.” He recalls.
So, as time passed, the-then Zomba-based young man passed his days perfecting his skills, not knowing it was going to eke his bread and butter.
The turning point was to be in 2007 when he had moved from his base, Zomba, and settled in the capital city; Lilongwe.
“I started my business in 2007 courtesy of my friend Kassim Adam, who is also in the same trade but based in South Africa currently. He used to be so good, and he’s still good. So upon noting how he was utilizing his skills (which were similar to mine), to make ends meet, I felt motivated to do the same,” he narrated.
That, plus her childhood belief in self-employment convinced him that he was posed for greatness.
“I’ve always believed self-employment could be the key to the development of the country. To me, I’ve always wanted to be my own boss so I felt this was the opportunity to fulfill my childhood ambition,” he said
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Upon hearing that, I needed to know more about this young man. Honestly, I wasn’t convinced this businesses, his business enterprise could be that profitable. So, upon revealing my reservations to him, I was to get the shock of my life. And from his response, I knew Suzgo is a man who knows his enterprise inside out. He’s a young man who’s on a mission.
“Every business enterprise is profitable. The key is the number of customers flocking onto your merchandises. That’s why I always strive to satisfy my customers by offering high quality products,” he challenges.
The glamor in Creative Arts business enterprise
As our chat proceeded, Suzgo further revealed to me some of the goodies that creative arts business has brought to him; chief among them, creating a larger circle of friends.
“Truth be told, this art business has made me know and befriend multitudes of clients from all walks of life. I value relationships a lot so this is one of the sweetest fruits I’ve ever harvested from my business,” he smiled.
And that’s not all, his business enterprise has helped him improve and sharpen his skills.
” I believe that practice makes perfect. Had it been I was just staying, my skills would not have improved, but because I started my own firm, I have seen that my skills have improved,” confessed Ntenda.
So, that childhood dream that the-then young Suzgo had of being his own brought is now into its fruition; he’s now living his dream.
Having created his own firm, Mambo Arts and Screen Printers, Suzgo does manage to create some temporary jobs for his fellow youths when there’s too much workload. He revealed to me that such a gesture assists his fellow youths in various ways.
“I do offer some temporary jobs to my fellow youths whenever there’s an opening. This assists them economically of course and the little they get from me, I do know, goes far and wide,” he revealed.
The down side of this business
Just like any business person, there are a number of challenges that Suzgo faces in his business. One of the major ones that he mentioned was lack of respect and appreciation for creative art by native Malawians.
” Malawians don’t respect creative art. They always see artistic work like mine as something for foreigners to buy. That is one of the major problems I face in my business because I only draw when I get orders from Americans and Chinese because they are the ones that buy my products most oftenly,” he explained.
Apart from that, Ntenda said his business is seasonal. He makes a lot of profits during political campaign periods. And that aside, native Malawians do not respect art as they always demand cheaper prices.
“Most locals always want higher quality products but at cheaper prices. This is not on! This kills our businesses. There’s no way we can develop if such attitude is perpetuated,” worried he.
A word to the youth
As our chat was going to an end, Suzgo Ntenda showered some mature pieces of advice to all Malawian youths. His sentiments echoed what many others before have already ironed out to be the chief cause of youth under-development in the country.
“Don’t wait for someone to employ you. If you feel like you got the talent, don’t wait! Show your talent and let people know what you’ve got,” he advises.
Dear reader, that was my memorable encounter with Suzgo Ntenda, an energetic young man who’s utilized his natural born talent to make ends meet.
As I bid goodbye to him, some questions kept on ringing in my mind; How many Suzgo Ntenda’s do we have in our country? Why can’t we get to know them and invest and empower such wonderful skills? If the government really wants to end high levels of unemployment in the country, why can’t they empower such energetic youths like Suzgo Ntenda?
Brief quick bio
Birth Name: Suzgo Ntenda
Date of Birth: December 1984
Firm: Mambo Arts and Sign Printers
Location of Business enterprise: Lilongwe, Lizulu Market opposite Toyota Malawi
Contact details: +265991 468313/ 265 882 649 217