Art in Malawi

Interview with Betty Nyirenda – Visual Artist in Malawi

Interview with Betty Nyirenda

Betty Nyirenda – Visual Artist

Age 26
Current City Lilongwe, Malawi
Instagram @bettynyirenda

Born in 1996, Betty Nyirenda is a fine art and abstract painter who is based in Lilongwe.

Betty likes to create images that portray different expressions, feelings and authentic stories allowing the viewer to get in touch with life’s diverse aspects.

Betty specializes in portraits and shows the power of femininity through photos of women in different settings.

Betty has exhibited her artwork in Lilongwe at Art in the Park and in Zambia.

Betty has a strong desire to contribute to and improve the overall status of art in Malawi so that Malawian local art can be recognized internationally.

Notable Artworks

Name of Art: Diverse Creation

After having a son, she felt in touch with her body as a woman.

She was inspired to portray creation in its authentic form.

This piece symbolizes how the world and everything in it contributes to life and energy.

She used a real chitenje cloth to create a head wrap for her.

As Africans, it is important to incorporate our culture in the stories we tell so that’s what she was trying to do with this piece.

She was also inspired by a TED talk which Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave titled “the dangers of a single story”.

Name of Art: Renaissance

This piece symbolizes the power of a woman.

A lion is the king of the jungle and represents power and the warrior lady who is mighty and forceful.

Her tribal tattoos and waist beads signify the authenticity of an African woman.

Name of Art: Feeling / Nostalgia

This one can be perceived in any way.

It’s basically depicting emotions which can either be pain or pleasure.


Interview Date: July, 2022

“I love when I accomplish creating a piece that was difficult but it turns out better than I pictured.

When did you start creating art?

I started creating art during my childhood but I only discovered my talent in painting and drawing as an adult so I started perfecting my painting skills in 2020.

What’s your favourite part about creating art?

I love when I accomplish creating a piece that was difficult but it turns out better than I pictured it.

I also just enjoy the feeling because when I feel overwhelmed it helps me get in touch with myself.

How long does it take you to create a piece?

Usually, that depends on the amount of detail required, motivation, deadline, inspiration, mood and mostly schedule.

But basically, I start with sketching the outline of the image that I want to create with a pencil then after that I work on the background.

Then, I proceed to fill in the rest of the details with paint.

Sometimes it can take me 2-3 weeks to finalize a painting and the maximum amount of time I’ve spent on a painting has been a month.

Who are your biggest artistic influences?

Mr. Chikanga is one of my biggest influences.

He’s in his 90’s and paints scenery so I get a lot of knowledge from im about art and life.

Another influence is Mavuto Soko, my art teacher who taught me to pay attention to detail when painting and how to bring commissions to life by using blending techniques.

He has also mentored me throughout my career.

Lastly, I am influenced Vincent Van Gogh.

How important is art in Malawian society?

Art makes life enjoyable and can be used to communicate information, preserve culture, create economic opportunities and of course break barriers by bringing people from different backgrounds/cultures together.

All these are important aspects of art but what makes are extremely important in Malawi is how big the tourism industry is and the role art plays in this industry which impacts the socio-economic status of many local artists.

Your art display themes of the power of femininity, what’s the inspiration behind this?

Most of the times when I’m creating art I’m usually extremely emotional, either happy, stressed, sad or angry.

So I’d say my art is inspired by my feelings.

That’s why one of my master pieces is called “feeling”.

But besides that I also draw from my personal experiences as a woman.

Other times, it’s my conscious mind grasping the thoughts of my subconscious mind and how best this can be channelled into a story.

What materials do you use in your paintings?

I use pencils, rulers (big and small), erasers, paint (acrylics), paint brushes, waste products, jewellery or anything I can use to achieve what I’m trying to portray.

What are your goals as a Malawian artist?

My goal is to find myself in art like what skills I have that I haven’t yet discovered and change the type of art I create just to step out of my comfort zone and I would also like to test my imagination.

I want to impact Malawian children positively.