Painting with Coffee: Blessed Chizah Nyakarize

Friday, 8 December, 2023

By Ayanda Dlamini

At just 26 years old, Blessed Chizah Nyakarize stands as a powerhouse of artistic innovation, utilizing an unexpected yet captivating resource: coffee. His canvas is a sacred space where his soul finds solace, it’s a space that allows him to explore intriguing dialogues between his art and inner self.

His journey as an artist didn’t unfold within the structured confines of a classroom. It emerged from his childhood, his artistic abilities pioneered from crafting sculptures on the ground as his canvas, with resources like clay and sand. These humble yet imaginative beginnings served as the genesis of his artistic expression, sparking a passion that would grow and evolve with him.

In the world of art, I see Nyakarize emerging not just as a young artist but as a storyteller. His talent is being able to translate the complexities of life into mesmerizing visuals, leaving a mark on the canvas of our collective consciousness.

What is your relationship with coffee / and what inspired you to use it at your main medium for your art ?

I’ve been doing art professionally for about 3 years. Before it was that, it was hobbie and then it grew into what it is now. My relationship with coffee began with my art, and with the intention of using it as a metaphor for my art. I was very into Gender Politics and Gender Roles and in the beginning, the reason I chose coffee for a piece was to use it as a metaphor for gender roles, where coffee was something that was found in the kitchen, a place where women are expected to be most of the time. Over time though, as my concepts changed I used coffee to represent a source of energy, it all depends on the body of work I'm working on at the time. 

How do you select the types of coffee you use, do certain coffees give you specific yields of colours ?

When it comes to the swatching of the coffee and the density of the paint, I can pretty much use any coffee. I’ve used instant Jacobs coffee, I enjoy the glossiness and finish that it gives me. I use any coffee really for toning, it’s all a technique of layering.

What is your creative process, from the moment you have an idea to translating that on paper ? 

I sometimes take my own pictures. I will have a specific shoot for an idea that I have and if I don’t have equipment at the time, I’ll find inspiration online for the body of work I’m trying to create. I typically engage with a movement or emotion, and the expressionism part of things. It starts with a huge conversations around the world, so I’ll be on social media analyzing what’s trending and the conversations around that. I’ll then find a topic I feel like I have a voice in and communicate that visually. 

When it comes to the coffee part and the toning, I mix it with water and I create 3 shades, light, medium and dark tones. It plays a huge role when you start layering, and creating the colours that you’re looking for. 

I’m inspired by the amount of effort that goes into your work. What is your driving force to keep creating art and putting it out there ? 

I think it’s me wanting to be a part of the conversation. It’s me wanting to have something to say about it. It’s me trying to reach out to people in a different type of medium. Remember we all have our own ways to express ourselves, others do it by singing some do it by dancing. So my drive is mainly to communicate a message with my paintings. My drive is also deciding not to let go, it’s difficult to get an audience with coffee paintings, most people in my experience won’t take you seriously, cause some people will think why don’t you just buy paint, and coffee is cheaper than paint so it can be taken less seriously. My driving force  also comes from the fact that people don’t see or believe in coffe being an “in thing”. By continuing to practice my craft, the drive then becomes the feedback and the conversation my work can influence. 

Are there any specific themes or messages you aim to convey through your coffee art? 

The themes change. As I mentioned, I’ve been inspired by gender politics, and currently I’m inspired by body portraits. My themes will always change as long as its something I’m passionate about. I don’t know what they’ll change too, sometimes it’ll be influenced by, when I feel like I’ve engaged enough and people have engaged enough. 

Speaking to Blessed, I learnt that his art is not merely a visual spectacle; it's a vivid portrayal of life's beautiful chaos. I look forward to seeing his work featured in galleries and even on the walls of our bustling cafe’s, where his work will be admired for the beauty of his creations  as well as for the love of coffee. 

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