Angela Sibanda, showbiz journalist
MEDICINE and art are two parallel lines, well. . . for most of us, but Keith Ndlovu, a doctor, found solace in art, catching the attention of international public figures through his self-taught portraits in college.
Ndlovu challenged social conventions, merging two different professions. It is rare to find one using forceps, retractors and stethoscopes while also excelling with a charcoal pencil, producing exceptional human figures in portraits.
Growing up in the dusty and hot streets of Hwange, Ndlovu focused on becoming a doctor and after completing a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery at the University of Zimbabwe, he joined the group of hospitals Parirenyatwa in Harare where he practices.
Her journey in the arts industry began to take shape during her third year of medical school in 2017. It all started as a hobby which then began to pay off when her friends and family began requesting portraits of themselves for a fee of $10.
He attended Coalfields Primary School in Hwange and went on to secondary education at Falcon College in Esigodini where he achieved 20 Advanced Level points in four science subjects, which earned him a Joshua Nkomo Scholarship from the Higherlife Foundation for his graduate studies. In 2019, Ndlovu served as President of the Zimbabwe Medical Students Association. He has also registered Arts in Medicine Zimbabwe (AiMZ), a non-profit entity that aims to foster creative patient engagement through different art forms with the aim of helping to reduce stress, anxiety and perception of physical or emotional pain in patients. AiMZ is expected to launch this year.
In an interview with Saturday Leisure, Ndlovu, who uses the name The Zimbabwean Davinci on social media, said art is his form of therapy and his portraits mainly focus on recreating images exactly as they appear.
“I love making art. I’m so immersed in it and nothing else matters while I’m drawing. It’s a kind of therapy. I’m a bit obsessed with creating photorealistic art, making sure to draw every detail as precisely as possible, and capturing the soul in pencil and paper, which is what I do.
“I decided to specialize in monochrome photorealistic charcoal illustrations because that’s what I love the most, so I chose to focus on that. I find there is better fine control with a pencil than with other media,” he said.
Zimbabwean Davinci said making a portrait can take between 15 and 100 hours.
“It all depends on what I’m drawing and the size of the work. It feels like a lot of hours, but I never feel it because it’s something I love to do,” he said.
He said he imports the material he uses for the portraits to ensure they are of high quality and has done portraits for public figures, both in Zimbabwe and abroad.
“I use charcoal and Fabriano paper. I import all my art materials from abroad. High quality materials ensure high quality workmanship. My prices are determined by the size and detail of the work. Prices range from US$100 upwards.
“I am fortunate to have worked for some of the most prominent people in Zimbabwe and overseas including First Family, Blanket Mine, Rank Zimbabwe, Kuda Tagwirei, Vusi Thembekwayo, Lewis Hamilton and many other clients from the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa,” said Ndlovu.
Ndlovu is the only artist in his family to have since converted his siblings and his cousin into art lovers.
He admitted, however, that chasing two dreams at the same time is not easy, but it all takes passion.
“It’s quite a challenge to have time for me to rest and recharge, so I work on my art commissions and my personal works whenever I’m not in the hospital. If you love something, you have to find a way to make time for it,” he said.
The artist deplores the advent of Covid-19 since it deprived him of a chance to meet the president.
He said he was lucky enough to meet other members of the first family.
“It’s a pity that I didn’t meet the president. The opportunities to meet him came at the height of Covid-19 and there was a lot of caution about that given that I’m a healthcare worker. I have, however, met other members of the First Family, for whom I have done private portraits on various occasions.
The artist said his antidote to success is to persevere and never give up, advice he has shared with up-and-coming artists.
“I urge emerging artists to never give up and do what you love. Always have a backup plan, go to school, get that degree so you can have multiple streams of income because the seasons change.
“Besides the risk, I think you can charge more for your work if you have something else to your name than the art. You are less likely to take on clients who will force you to work for very little money,” added Ndlovu.
As an artist, Ndlovu is not spared the economic challenges that plague local artists in an industry generally looked down upon and he believes government and private actors can do more to promote local art.
“There is a lot of talent and potential in the art industry in Zimbabwe. I think that many artists need the support of the Ministry of Arts and Youth and I would like to encourage the ministry to integrate artists and young people into their structures in order to exploit this potential.
“The private sector also has a role to play. I encourage businesses to purchase local art for their offices and hallways. It would be amazing to have a place like the new Parliament building and the National Art Gallery filled with local artwork by the best artists in Zimbabwe.
“Banks and investment firms can reap good results by funding artists to establish studios and galleries through grants and loans. Not only does this empower artists and improve their standard of living, but it also helps the economy. Next door, in South Africa and other countries, works of art can be sold for thousands and millions of dollars. But we can only achieve this by supporting our local artists,” Ndlovu said.