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Oil brushes that conserve birds

Artist turns childhood affection into a challenge for me and you

| DOMINIC MUWANGUZI | Farid Mahfudh loves birds. He cares for birds; lovingly cuddling them and nursing them if they accidently wander into his studio. He helps them to freedom in the open skies.

Born in Masaka town, Farid has fond memories of he and his playmates, nursing abandoned hatchlings; feeding them and improvising grassy shelters for them. These became lifelong bonds between him, the birds, and the wild.

The unfortunate death of over two million quelea birds by spraying at Kibimba Rice Farm, in Eastern Uganda ignited this conservationist streak. It coincided as he finished his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art (BIFA) at Margaret Trowel School of Industrial and Fine Art, Makerere University in Kampala where he specialised in oil painting and anatomy study. The latter discipline influenced his studio technique to drawing with a strong bias to detailing a painting – unlike the usual abstract or realistic approach.

Fast forward to today, Farid is now a birder. He describes himself as a wildlife artist with a penchant for painting and drawing birds on canvas. Farid’s birds on canvas emerge in hyper-realistic style, integrated with their surroundings. The integration is critical for him as a wildlife artist because the environment is as important as the wildlife. The interplay of bird and vegetation also mirrors his conservation conversation with the public. To save the wildlife, you should save the vegetation in which the wildlife lives. The painting of the vegetation in the background validates the school of thought that art should never appear blunt. The proponents of this philosophy argue that art is not a poster that promotes a product, art is a subject that offers entertainment to the public. In Farid’s paintings, entertainment is everywhere. The public find his art fun.

He paints birds as sensitive and vulnerable creatures and representing other life in the wild. To achieve this effect, he plays with light and bright hues on canvas. Purples, pink burnt ember and pyne grey portray the bird’s vulnerability and the environment they live in. Beyond the figurative connotation, the colour scheme is aesthetically appealing. Audiences are drawn to the painting because the palette is not dull, but playful and almost casual.

Farid’s passion for birds and their surroundings offers valuable conversations on the topic of nature conservation that is critical globally.  The safety of birds can only be guaranteed if the environment is handled responsibly and vice-versa. Farid’s dream is to see birds not only on paintings or photographs but in the sky flocking like they have always done. He implies that each one of us can do something to conserve the wildlife and environment we live in. Farid preserves nature by painting it on canvas; as the rest of humanity, what are you doing?


 Image courtesy of the artist.


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