by Len Lear
I recently walked into Malelani Café, the delightful, mostly vegetarian 5-year-old restaurant at 6734 Germantown Ave. in West Mt. Airy. In addition to the terrific food at ridiculously reasonable prices, I could not help but notice the beautifully rendered portraits on one wall by Mt. Airy artist and illustrator Angelique Benrahou, 28, who does both commercial and fine art and whose work will remain hanging until Dec. 1.
According to owner George Drakopoulos, 38, who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and emigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1996.
“We typically do monthly art shows with only local artists, with a first Sunday of the month art show party from 3 to 5 p.m., where the artist invites family and friends, We have live music, and it’s a great way to change up colors on the walls and get some new local customers.
“Angelique is the first portrait artist I have had, and I think her stuff is awesome. If she gets it together, she wants to do family portraits and pet portraits. We host all kinds of artists, sculptures and pottery, not just painting and photography. Angelique’s art was up for three months because I took some time to do some rehab on the walls and do some much needed painting, but I have 12 local artists lined up for 2020, including my mother in February.”
Benrahou, who loves to work on environments and character designs, mostly digitally, said she is “obsessed with bright and interesting color schemes, tea and audiobooks,” and agreed to answer some questions about herself and her artwork:
• Where did you grow up?
“In Mt. Airy.”
• Where do you live now? For how many years?
“I still live with my family in Mt. Airy for my whole 28 years”
• What high school did you go to?
“Friends Central. I graduated in 2010.”
• What school after Friends Central?
“I went to the University of the Arts for 2-and-a-half years.”
• Did you always want to be an artist while growing up?
• What other schooling have you had?
“I went to Chestnut Hill College from 2014 to 2016 and got a degree from CHC. I now go to Studio Incamminati at 12th and Callowhill Streets and have one more semester to go.”
(Ed. note: Studio Incamminati is a private school for Contemporary Realist Art. It was founded by the late Nelson Shanks in 2002 and is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Among realist painters, the school is recognized for its extensive palette. The school has been praised by realist art champions including the late Gordon Wetmore, founding member of the Portrait Society of America, who called it one of the “exceptional examples among a number of excellent schools which have been instrumental in training a growing population of young artists.”)
• Who are your own favorite artists, past and present, and why?
“I like Leyendecker and Ely Smallwood because of their expressive brushwork.”
• What made you want to paint portraits as opposed to landscapes, flowers, etc.?
“I like capturing the human soul.”
• How many portraits have you sold from the Malelani Café exhibit?
• Have people commissioned you to do portraits?
• What other kinds of jobs have you had outside of art?
“I’ve worked at CVS and as a server.”
• What was the hardest thing you ever had to do?
• What is the best advice you ever received?
“To never give up.”
• What is your greatest regret, if any?
“Not working harder at my craft.”
• Which talent that you do not have would you most like to have and why?
“I have a pretty bad memory, so the ability to remember everything would be cool.”
• If you could live anywhere on earth, where would it be and why?
“San Francisco. I’ve visited it, and it’s a beautiful place.”
• What is your most impressive characteristic?
“I’m pretty relentless.”
• If you could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, who would it be?
“I would like to meet Damien Hirst. He is a really popular gallery artist, and I’d love to pick his brain.”
For more information, call 267766-2396 or visit www.Malelani.cafe. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com