Local Vibes
November 11, 2005
‘Nzimbu fills gallery with masterpieces

Some artists use paint to express their work but Nzimbu Browne uses the banana plant. Every inch of the plant is useful and never considered waste as Nzimbu creates his masterpieces.

So after 15 years practising this unique craft, Nzimbu showcased his work with a banana art gallery where 115 of his unique pieces were on display from October 24- November 8 at the Old Public Library.{{more}}

As a poet, dancer, drummer, and actor Nzimbu Browne never seems to fall below our expectations. He is an artist in every sense of the word.

Speaking with the Searchlight Newspaper, the Mc Kie’s Hill resident said he had been working on these pieces for over 15 years and described his work as the final emancipation.

He said the theme of his presentation, entitled, “The Power and Glory in my Banana Art’ depicts the evolution of the Vincentian Civilization from the Orinoco, Africa, Asia and Europe over periods of slavery to emancipation and indentured labour.

Using waste from the banana, Nzimbu said the colours used are all earth toned natural hues of beige, brown, black and white from the banana plant.

No paints or dyes were used and all pieces have been naturally processed and cut into the shapes needed to produce phenomenal works of art that have been stuck together with paper glue.

But Nzimbu, who started out doing woodwork in 1985, has Vincentian Bandi Payne who is now in Ethiopia to thank for his skill. He said that Payne was the first to show him banana art and today he has perfected his own style.

Quality is something that this Vincentian artist takes prides in, he believes that quality rules the world and that is why people go for brand name products.

So Nzimbu intends to perfect his work and showcase it to the rest of the world; but some locals still don’t show enough appreciation for the vision of this artist.

In 1999 when the President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh visited this country, he bought a painting from Nzimbu for US$11,000 (EC$30,000) but some local officials thought that his price was exorbitant and returned the money to the stunned Gambian President. The artwork (which depicted a court scene) was already on the plane and was returned to Nzimbu damaged.

When asked about the incident, Nzimbu replied, ‘It was a happy feeling that an African President selected that kind of work from the banana leaf. He recognised my ability but, unfortunately, folks here could not deal with that and thought that the cost of my work was too expensive.”

He went on, “Art is priceless; you can’t put a price on it. The hard work and creative intellect that I put into my work must get the highest of dollars. I look upon that incident and laugh because all that was negative energy, but it was also free publicity and I used it to my benefit. That painting now has a great history behind it and the price has now gone up.”

If you were to get a piece of exclusive Nzimbu banana artwork, know that this is no ordinary work and the prices speak for themselves. The least costly piece is $1,500 and the most expensive is $150, 000.

His vision is to work with other regional artists and musicians to move as a caravan of creative peoples putting on shows around the world. He believes that this would be a way to educate and keep the heritage alive.

Besides culture, it is the message of self-sufficiency which Nzimbu also preaches to everyone he meets.

He advised, “You have to look inward and produce things for yourself at the highest quality. Don’t wait on a job, but create your own employment. Use your raw materials around you and create an industry.”