For twenty one years Barry Lungu has been capturing the simple elements of African life in his paintings. Growing up on the dusty streets of Chitungwiza, Lungu has always been fascinated by the environment around him – the busy markets, the township landscape, everyday people going about their everyday business.
Soon after completing high school at Pfumo Primary SchooI in Zengeza, and motivated by his love for art, Lungu enrolled at the National Art Gallery School of Art. He also took part in workshops in printmaking with British Reader in Fine Art, Stephen Mumberson; Nigerian printmaker, painter and sculptor Bruce Obomeyoma Onobrakpeya; and American artist Pheoris West to name but a few.
Early in his career Lungu was awarded the National Gallery Young Artist of Promise award, the National Gallery Award of Merit Painting, a Certificate of Excellence, the National Gallery Highly Commended Painting Award and the A Decade of Award Winning Shows award. Using his home in Chitungwiza as his studio, Lungu’s medium of choice is acrylic paint, but he often dabbles with oils.
Harare News spoke to Lungu, who said “I love to express contemporary experiences in acrylic paint applied with a brush and knife in a way I could never describe in words. Figures in crowds are the main inspiration for my style. They greatly feed my love for expressing myself with this form, particularly people in the biggest marketplaces in Harare like Mbare Musika.”
Lungu added that his favourite subjects are often those in which most elements are not fixed but are in a constant state of movement. “There must be movement for it to arouse me to paint. I personally call my style Afro Impressionism. I become absorbed with everything I look at and every person I speak to, I don’t see just a face, I tend to see colours and lines and shapes which other people don’t see.”
Lungu has taken part in several exhibitions, and his paintings have been bought by many art lovers in Zimbabwe and internationally. Lungu has exhibited at the Verandah Gallery Charity Show, the Market Theatre Show in Johannesburg, and at the Wild Geese Art Fair among many others, including solo shows.
Apart from township landscapes, Lungu’s work is also inspired by his late mother, who died two years after Lungu started painting full time. Lungu says his mother never got the chance to see his success. “The market women I often capture on canvas are a constant symbol of the hard work my mother put in to shape the Barry Lungu you see today.” Indeed, most of Lungu’s paintings are filled with vivid colours of everyday women going about their daily tasks.
Another passion for Lungu is mentoring young artists. “Having given half of my life to this wonderful career, I now want to play the role of torch bearer. It is my wish to impart the knowledge I have gathered to young up and coming artists who are in the same situation I once was at the beginning of my career.”
Lungu gets people to buy his work via #Investinalungu on Facebook. He has also launched “The Barry Lungu Colour Challenge” where he invites friends on Facebook to choose their favourite colour, the most popular of which he then uses to create a work of art. The finished piece is then auctioned on Facebook, and proceeds go to an old people’s home in Chitungwiza. Lungu is certainly among Zimbabwe’s notable artists: a man with a big heart and an enduring passion for expressing life through his art.
Image: Artist, Barry Lungu