By Armstrong Vaz
Doha, Dec 16 (IANS): Qatar-based Filipino artist Michael Conjusta describes himself as Interior Decorative Artist, Painter, Muralist, Face and Body Painting, Visual Artist and Music lover on his Instagram account. One thing conspicuous by its absence on his social media profile is that he is a big time football fan and that of Argentina's Lionel Messi.
As a child Michael Conjusta wanted to be a doctor and serve humanity reaching out to the sick and those in need of medical attention. Thirty years down Michael is not surrounded by stethoscope, syringes, thermometers, and other tools which are part of a medical professional but with paints and brushes.
With the World Cup kicking off in Qatar on November 20 the football extravaganza has served a platform to many artists from different parts of the world. Michael's case is no different. His murals at World Cup stadiums has shot him into the limelight and served as a greatest platform for his talents and art works. Michael has left fans from across the globe impressed with his eye-catching murals which are at the centre of attraction at Al Bayt, Lusail, Al Janoub and Al Thumama stadiums and the Doha Corniche.
"So far I have done 21 murals the last is on December 18 the Qatar National day and I have been assigned to do one in Corniche area. I am really enjoying contributing to the art and culture celebrations, especially when people praise my work and ask for a selfie. I feel like a superstar! I am always eager to meet new people and make new friends," said the long time Qatar resident, while speaking to IANS.
"Yes, I am a fan of Argentina and of Messi. I enjoy when fans of the winning team leave the game cheering, especially in the metro. It feels like a fiesta," he said with a huge laugh.
The 44-year-old has been creating artwork as part of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) Cultural Activation Programme, which is hosting talent during the FIFA World Cup to complement the festive atmosphere in the host country.
Michael's fascination with Messi and Argentina started a few months back during the Qatar International Art Festival where he made a three-dimensional painting of the Argentina great, who on Sunday will be aiming to win his first World Cup with the La Albiceleste.
"Yes I got into the World Cup mode in the month of September when the Qatar International Art Festival was held and the theme of the festival was the football World Cup so keeping in tune with the requirements I had made a painting of a younger Messi, a 20-year-old to the present day 35-year-old one."
The festival which was held over five days attracted over 600 artworks by 300 artists representing 65 countries, and belonging to various spectra, generations, and art schools and Michael considers himself privileged to take part in the event.
"I got to meet so many artists and art lovers, made new friendships and it was like a test event for much bigger things which were in store during the World Cup," he recalled about the event.
Michael, who has been intermixing his love for Jogo Bonita and his art before the World Cup, is delighted by the response he has been getting from fans and others who are following his work.
"It feels amazing! Everyone is proud of me, especially my family and friends back home in the Philippines. Seeing fans pose and take photos with my artwork has also made me feel very special. It really means a lot. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to showcase my talent to everyone visiting from around the world. It's amazing exposure for me as an artist," who has spent 24 years in Qatar and considers it as his second home.
Talking about his early life in the Philippines he said: "I moved to Qatar as an interior decorator, I was still studying architecture. I decided to make the move for a better living opportunity. I also had dreams of becoming a doctor one day, but here I am!
"I first started drawing when I was eight years old. I really enjoyed it from the start. I'm still progressing as a professional graffiti artist as I'm still exploring different techniques and learning about this art form." He said.
Describing his art he said: "What I create is a mix of graffiti and murals. Graffiti is more about spontaneous writing, lettering, sketching and scribbles, while murals are usually larger and more intentional drawings that could vary in complexity."
Every profession and work has its challenges and Michael is one step ahead to overcome them in order to finish his art works with finesse and perfection.
"I find this type of art to be challenging because I have to apply what is on my mind and make it instantly work on the surface. During my live art performances, I am conscious of the fans and competing teams, so I like to include elements from the matches or the tournament, like La'eeb. I like to think that I'm a positive person and aim to reflect that in my work, give my best and enjoy the end result with fans."
"No compromises, no second thoughts, I will back and will be fully behind Argentina and I want them to win the World Cup on Sunday," said Michael as a parting shot.