A picture is a poem without words.Horace
“A picture is a poem without words”. Horace’s profound words came to life when l took time to digest theproducer_zimbabwe’s artistic work. His work went viral on the Twitter streets several times with thousands of reshares. People were more fascinated about these out-of-the-ordinary artistic pieces. I saw stories. I saw my story. I saw the African Story. While other artists have gone viral with artistic manipulations that tell no stories but are of mere meme value, theproducer_zimbabwe has chosen to be a storyteller and trailblazer.
With the level of expertise exhibited in his work it would be hard to accept that its all self-taught. Professionally an Agriculture Economist expert who says he found himself in the world of branding and business creativity by mistake. Ever since he started his journey with photography and art manipulation using Photoshop as medium, everything has fallen into place from working with African giants such as Jah Prayzah, working with hospitality brands and getting his first job via DM. CheckoutAfrica had a phone conversation with theproducer_zimbabwe aka Isheanesu Malunga and discussed his artistic journey, the meaning of his work, the intentions behind his work, the intended impact and everything in-between. Who knew Photoshop can be used to tell the Zimbabwean story?
CheckoutAfrica: Can you tell us about yourself?
theproducer_zimbabwe: Real name is Isheanesu Malunga, theproducer_zimbabwe is something that came up when l was doing my Agriculture Economics, so initially it was “I want to be the producer of anything and everything” but the Art just caught on and that is how l’m here. But besides that I am an Agriculture and Economic Development Guy who is not doing any of that; a guy who has found himself in a of business creativity, marketing and branding. What you see on social media is just the fun side of some of my work. And of course l am Zimbabwean.
How long have you been in photography and photoshopping? And why did you start?
Photography l started late 2017 towards the end of my thesis; I was working on my dissertation. It was a getaway kind of hobby. Taking pictures of sunsets and the like. In 2018 that is when l got my first camera because the one l was using was borrowed and it was a 2008 camera. So that is when l started proper photography with editing, I think it was around the same time in 2018 that l started experimenting with editing using phone applications. As for Photoshop, I started Photoshop in 2019 March and l found it a bit easier than using my phone and ever since then that’s when l learnt everything to do with editing and other Software. I started because l felt like l loved art and l was neglecting it doing econometrics and all, am not a numbers guys (laughs) l love visuals.
A closer look at your Photoshop, there is a common theme of particular story telling; is that intentional and what is the motivation behind that?
Uhmmmm, the first thing is a lot of individuals can use Photoshop and probably far much better than myself. So for me being an experimental guy l found my edge and strength being rather to tell stories of a lot of things that are happening around me and the world over in the long run. As of now it’s purely to express stories in a funny way but impacting way and also in different way so that people can look at the work and engage in conversations that matter.
— Adobe Photoshop (@Photoshop) September 3, 2020
I have noticed that a lot of people on Twitter have been reposting your work and using some of your work in awareness campaigns on the Covid-19 Pandemic. How did it feel to get a nod from official Adobe Photoshop twitter account?
To be honest, if felt good but it wasn’t that all over the place kind of feel; it is something that helped to motivate and affirm that the Art is going somewhere. It’s just that little drive to keep expressing and telling stories from this side of the world.
How long does it take you to finish up a piece on average?
It depends, for the simpler ones it can be from an hour thirty minutes to three hours. Then for the more complicated ones with a lot of things to stitch together and a whole of things to change it can go up to seven hours and eight hours. Just depends.
What are some of the best/ crazy things that have happened due to your illustrations work?
One of the first key crazy things has to be that is how l got my first job and only job so far. Someone came to my DM and said they had a proposition and they wanted me to start work the following day. It was design and branding company, that is where l learnt branding and where l sharpened my Photoshop skills because they had more powerful machines, bigger screens and everything that l needed. So I think that was the first major thing. Then in terms of general reach; I quit my job on Valentine’s Day this year (laughs). The other thing has to be connection to certain people and definitely how l have been surviving and trying to establish my own brand. A lot of people come from Instagram and most it is just referrals.
Tell me more about theproducer_zimbabwe Brand; what kind of work have you assumed?
As of now we are much of into creative work, that’s the first thing. So it’s creative work in terms of brand imaging, marketing and brand campaigns; that would be the first category which is brand management. We are also into brand creation like logos, stationery designs, we recently worked with a big drilling company. Lastly we also work on corporate photography.
Of all your illustrations so far, do you have a favourite piece?
I have got one which kick started the crazy the ripple effects of opportunities which is titled “pour out to the world that which you’ve been blessed with” the one am standing on under a tap. That is my all-time favourite piece.
In terms of the creative industry which creators or circumstances of yester year or current have inspired your work?
I would say the whole economic mess in Zimbabwe inspired me. It is a weird kind of inspiration but it’s something that you feel daily. Whenever you find yourself in public places like in the central business district; you just see life from a different perspective, it inspires you to tell stories once you get to places that are relevant. For instance my most recent piece of balancing rocks in Epworth, Zimbabwe. In terms of impacting pieces it involves art that people can relate to.
What are your predictions for the future of your craft; where do you want it go and the impact?
Uhmmm, so far l have been the worst person to predict the future of my craft. Its only recent that l have come to the realization that this is actually something because all the stuff l do, I do for fun. Then l realize that l have 20 things l have to do for fun then l have a lot of deadlines; this fun is actually work. Generally in the future l would want it to grow and have more people tell their stories even not under my brand or at least being inspired by my brand. Just having a different perspective to life and having fun while getting the best things done. Personally l would want to watch the brand grow and probably take on a lot of people, currently l am working on the company paperwork and making things legit.
Which brands or companies have you worked with in Corporate Zimbabwe?
I have worked with a good numbers of companies but let me see a few l can share with you. I have worked with Manica Sky View which is closely related to Manica Skyview Hotel and Conferences Centres, I also worked with West Properties Zimbabwe and also worked with Jah Prayzah Studios, Jah Signal, Enzo Ishall, Nash Furniture’s, Nash Paints, Motswako and currently am working with International Brands such as Moyo Beauty based in the United Kingdom.
What is the current state of the Branding Industry in Zimbabwe; where is it now and where would you like it to go?
I think it is growing and the industry is largely rooted online hence and with the current Covid-19 pandemic a lot of older businesses have been realizing the importance of brand image and investing in that area respectively. There are a lot of players kicking in and though they are rather more linear in their approach and probably following everything taught at a graphic school and that’s where am trying to find a small niche market from a different perspective.
In conclusion, what advice would you give to that aspiring African creative who wants to get into your industry or monetizing their hobbies such as manipulation of Art?
I would say the first thing they need to focus on is not the money. I have had a couple of people ask me for advice and l have realized the inspiration is different in the people who ask. They would ask how much they want to charge for their art and l always tell them that what l charge differs from client to client. But what has been important to me has been just doing; even if you have an old camera just do it. A long as you have a will, a way will come along.
This interview has been edited and compressed for clarity and length.