Louis Masai: A Visual Voice for the Vulnerable

“Over 99% of cases of human rabies are caused by an infected dog bite. Once symptoms of the disease develop, it is always fatal. Every year, millions of healthy dogs are inhumanely killed for fear of this deadly disease. However, this doesn’t halt the spread of rabies, which causes the deaths of around 61,000 people a year – the majority of which are children under 15.” Mission Rabies

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Louis Masai‘s mural collaboration with Mission Rabies speaks for the animals who are affected by rabies in Blantyre, Malawi, creating something special for the community, as well as raising awareness for the devastating disease. 

With his admirable attention to detail, Masai painted three murals of dogs he had met who were treated by the Mission Rabies team. They feature happy and healthy looking dogs with colourfully painted ears.  The paintings also contain the phrase, ‘Tithetse chiwewe’ which translates as, ‘Let’s end rabies.’

We wanted to know more about the experience from his perspective, so we caught up with Louis Masai:

You have a strong theme of animals in your work. What started that?

Well I was always painting animals as a kid. It faded away whilst I was at art school, but returned soon after I left and felt free to explore my true interests.

Your work with Mission Rabies is a beautiful collaboration. What was your reason for getting involved?

Well let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to do something in whatever manner possible to eradicate one of the most aggressive diseases on the planet? Painting, as a medium, can break down language barriers and therefore is a very useful education tool. My paintings are all in schools and used as a way to conduct education programmes with the communities in Blantyre. The potential of being a part of a project that allows me to inspire, educate and be a part of fixing one of the biggest rabies epidemic on the planet is not something that comes around everyday.

What was your favourite part of the project?

If i was to conjure up a favourite part I would have to have a negative feeling towards something also, that’s just not my way…thus i can honestly say all was a blessing…

I loved that you painted dogs that you met who were vaccinated and gave them patterned ears. What was the reason for this?

I have been working on a series of work over the past few years that see creatures with fabric patterns adorned in parts of the body. This is to translate the idea that animals and humans are so similar in more ways than not; Fabrics are a human attribute and we use them to keep warm, display beauty and wealth. A lot of fabrics are actually influenced by nature yet nothing in nature apart from humans will cover themselves. I have this idea that humans invented clothes and fabrics as a way to imitate and even learn from the other creatures on the planet; I use the fabric references in the paintings adorning animals as a way to raise this issue- the paintings in Malawi are all adorning african fabric patterns.

What does the future hold for your art- are there any exciting projects coming up?

I’m currently preparing for a two month tour of the states where I will aim to create a documentary with my good friends Where’s Kong,  which will raise awareness for a wide spectrum of American creatures that are endangered. This series will all be addressed using my current patchwork toy style and the creatures will be being stitched up by bees. 

One Love.

Check out his work for yourself at Louis Masai

Article written by @kellymmackay 

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