“A life of shades and strokes”: an interview with John Mahove

Zimbabwean realism painter is keeping his head down in pursuit of a God given talent. The hermit who walks in a less populated avenue for a man of his statue became a radiant fine painter nobody dare to ignore has no remorse for giving up a seemingly favorable path in preference of art business. 

A picture of a Rhino that John Mahove donate to a wildlife organisation

A picture of a Rhino that John Mahove donate to a wildlife organisation

John Mahove emerged out of seemingly arid and sun baked Gweru arts scene to become an international household name through a string of genuine agencies. Mahove has over the years proved his commitment through the support conservative initiatives organised that by organisation that comprises of Midlands Black Rhino Conservancy, Painted Dog Conservation and Emerald Hill Children’s Home.

The persistent artist defied all odds grow his brand using exhibition that Paintings and Pimms at (Veranda Gallery) 2014, Exhibition in masking (Studio 52, Masvingo) 2013, MukatiUnze: Exploring the Spirit of the Zambezi (National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls) 2013, The Essence of the African Wild Dogs (Mukuvisi Woodlands in aid of The Wild Dog Conservation) 2013, Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF, Bulawayo), 2013 Cultural and Social Fair for show societies (Exhibition Park, Harare) 2013, Miami Arts Expo (Miami, Florida) 2013 and Ziva Kwawakabva (National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare)2012 among other groups showcases

The Gweru-based, and professional artist shares insightful position on his work and how his country has extensively worked towards environmental security by trading wildlife to finance failing sectors of the country’s economy.

Do you think if ever you had remained in the field of Metallurgy you would happier than you are today?

John Mahove: No, I did Metallurgy at University due to a lake of proper career guidance. I think our society needs to know that obtaining good grades at school doesn’t necessarily mean that someone should pursue “education.”

A lot of people do not realise their talents early enough because of the mist provided by our education system. Art brings me joy, sometimes when I get into the studio low spirited, just five minutes staring at paintings is enough for me to get high.(not with drugs of course) but rather with inspiration through art.

In your early art your shades were more fluffy soft and sympathetic to the rhythm of lost time and history like cotton wool but then now they are more defined and distinct like grass brooms. Is this an improvement from amateur art or rather a new style that you have modified your work into?

John Mahove: I wouldn’t say new style as such but actually an improvement. The more I paint, the more I get even better and faster than before. Over the year into art I discovered that one should grow with their art. The more you keep painting you perfect your art. And the more improved art appears to the human eye.

Passion, maybe should I say obsession with wild animals, which constitutes better part of your artistic legacy in painting collection and that which you also sold. Does this have anything to do with your imagination of love for cartoons?

John Mahove: (Giggling) both. I just love the humour in animations but the edge to watch them is the artistic scenery in the cartoons world. Cartoons are great environmentalist in away. I am inspired a lot by the art, the combination of characters and the strong reliance on the animate side of the story.


On a more synthetic note, in the closing of 2014, Zimbabwe sold more than 60 elephants for up to $40,000 each, saying it needs the money to run its biggest game reserve. As one of the emerging wildlife conservationist from Zimbabwe do you think this has an impact either on wildlife or the art itself?

John Mahove: This may be hard to swallow for a lot of people. Elephants need to be understood well. Uncontrolled population of elephants has a negative impact on other smaller herbivores and the ecosystem itself. Researches show that there should be one elephant per square kilometre to maintain a balanced ecosystem. I just think it was a matter of conserving other both the elephants other herbivores as well. In short, a lot of elephants in a small area results in extinction of other animals because elephants will win the food and water competition against other herbivores but as time goes on, they will starve an also die. Imagine one elephant needs about 200kg to 300Kg of plants each day and drinks about 140litres to 200litres of water per day.

The full interview with Alfred Tembo appears in Shades of Colours …inside the work of John Mahove (forthcoming-2015) to be jointly published by Business Mail (Zambia) and Amafish Art (Zimbabwe)