By Caroline Chiimba
BELGIUM-BASED Zimbabwean visual artist and art gallery owner, Molly Phiri Winckelmans, is making waves in Europe with her contemporary art work which is inspired by African women whose success stories are usually overlooked.
Despite the trade being viewed as a ticket to poverty by afrocentric older generation, Molly is capitalising on the skill; painting canvas with a style that is adapted to a modern European living and working environment.
Her career in visual arts was through defiance. At tertiary level she enrolled to study Fine Art with Harare Polytechnic but later dropped out due to financial constraints. Her mother stopped financing her education as she has envisioned her daughter studying secretariate studies not Fine Art, a profession she despised.
Lack of support from her mother did not deter the talented artist, she later got a British American Tobacco (BAT) scholarship and enrolled at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe to pursue her dream in art.
“I completed my studies at the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe and went on to exhibit my work there and won a number of awards under the Excellent in the visual Arts Mobile Zimbabwe Heritage Awards category. My paintings got sold even abroad as far as Finland and attracted a lot of people at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe,” Molly told The Entrepreneurial Magazine.
It was through her captivating artworks that drew the attention of a Belgian young man during an exhibition at the Gallery, who was fascinated by both the paintings and the painter. The two later got married and moved to Belgium.
“Zimbabwe has very good teachers. I blended my heritage with my fantasy and developed a style that people had never seen. People in Europe liked it. After a few years, I wanted to make a living from my art. My husband and I started to sell the paintings from our living room which was also my workshop. The idea of setting up an Art Gallery was born,” Molly said.
“I learned the language, socialised a lot with locals, and made a lot of friends. This made it easy when I applied for my license and in 2010, Molly’s ArtMove Gallery was born. I sold mostly my paintings but also some small artifacts because not everybody could afford my works.
“After a while, I became more known and I decided to sell my works only. To make this possible I gave people advice about how to decorate their homes. I still go to peoples’ houses with my paintings to see which one goes well with the interior.
“This formula was magical and people were so happy to see that my Artwork gave more value to their interior. Their friends were shocked to see what I could do. In this way, I expanded my audience and now my works are sold all over Belgium and the rest of Europe.”
In 2015 Molly build a brand-new Ecological Art Gallery with professional lighting to showcase her works even better. Over the years she has been asked by companies to exhibit in their premises, a development which is introducing more people to her work of art.
Through her art gallery, the Zimbabwe-born artist has made great strides in portraying and showcasing her paintings and Zimbabwean art in general. Using Belgium as a launch pad, Winkelmans’ award-winning artworks have found their way into art galleries in countries which include Zimbabwe, Botswana, England, the United States of America, Germany and Finland.
“In the near future I would love to expand my business to Zimbabwe, open a Molly’s ArtMove 2.0 and give workshops to local artists. The ultimate dream is to save enough money to start a school of Arts and Design so that local people can benefit from my experience,” the mother of two said.
She added that being an artist entrepreneur is not an easy journey because you have to prove yourself over and over. The higher your prices become, the more people expect, and delivering quality is a must.
“You have to work extremely hard and sacrifice a lot to make your business successful,” she said.
This article was first published in the August Issue of The Entrepreneurial Magazine under the topic ” Zimbabwean Entrepreneurs breaking the ceiling glass in the diaspora.”