Kundai Marunya Lifestyle Writer
What first captures your eye, even before knocking on a door are mats. Most of them are neatly crafted with catchy images of animal print.
On a closer look, the animal is seemingly moving. It captivates one’s mind that even when the door finally opens the beautifully handmade carpet and wall mats give the house warmth and a refreshingly different feel, the designs both embellishing the space as well as telling different stories.
This is usually the first and lasting impression one gets on their first encounter with a home decorated with Nyasha Jonasi’s artwork. Nyasha is a Gweru-born creative entrepreneur who found a way of scaling new heights in visual art.
He defies those who think every avenue of creation has been exhausted, and artists can only conform to sub-genres already in existence. His art encompasses human figures, animal prints and even abstracts, all stitched on carpets and mats. Jonasi never had any formal art education but learnt from his father. “My father had a flooring business, so I grew up working with carpets and decided to continue with flooring but with a modern twist,” he said.
Jonasi’s love of carpets goes back to his early childhood when he often went to work with his father. His father would give him carpet cut-offs with which he spent hours making his designs while waiting for his father to finish work.
Carpets were, however, not his first love.
“I loved drawing and painting but material was hard to come by so I stuck to carpets,” said Jonasi. His work decorates many homes and companies in the country.
Though his passion is largely in creative work, to earn a living Jonasi also customises mats and carpets for corporates.
“For customised mats, a client sends their logo or detail to be branded with specific dimensions and we manufacture accordingly. But for wall art mats, I have to be creative,” he said.
To grow his market, Jonasi however moved to South Africa in 2011.
Arriving south of the Limpopo, the artist found himself with little resources to kick-start his business. Together with a small team Jonasi had assembled with the help of his partner, Zandile Hadebe, they worked months on end failing to attract the much-needed attention, but kept hoping for a breakthrough.
They did not have money for advertising so all hope lay in street marketing. Eventually luck was on their side when during their walkabout a company assigned them for a branded mat.
That was the fortunate break they were hoping for. Things turned around as they were asked to make more branded carpets.
In a few months, they had enough carpets and mats to show off at a local decor exhibition.
Since then, business started to gradually grow with big companies such as KFC and Sun International enlisting their services.
“It was very difficult to penetrate the market since I had to start from scratch with very little resources but being trusted by big companies was a big break for us,” he said.
Though starting small, his hard work is bearing fruits. His business is now registered in the neighbouring country with a small shop in Durban’s Umbilo Road now the home of Jonasi’s new carpet workshop.
He gets at least 15 clients per month.
“Registering my company, Logo Door Mats, in 2015 was one of my major breakthroughs,” he said.
Though most of his work is handmade, he also uses jet printing machinery, especially on carpets and company mats.
“My biggest challenge right now is the lack of modern machinery to improve efficiency and meet demand to grow my business,” he said.
To get the much-needed equipment, and to smoothen operations, Jonasi needs capital injection. “As a company we lack sufficient money to sustain the business, working towards profits,” he said.
Jonasi’s dream is to spread his work across the continent. At the moment he has clients, both individuals and companies, in different countries including Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Nigeria and Botswana.
“Our future is to serve Africa, grow internationally, creating employment and giving back to the community,” he said.
Business has been well for Jonasi, especially in branding for companies. He, however, wishes to keep up his creative work and to go down history as one of the celebrated visual artists of his time.
In his creative portfolio are crafts depicting freedom, survival, traditional artifacts and figures of African heroes, Nelson Mandela included. For future works, Jonasi wants to diversify his creative work to include upcycling encompassing materials such as bottle tops, old vinyl records and even bits of discarded tyres fusing them with his carpets.
He dreams to one day exhibit in one of the big galleries on the continent.