Artist repays friend’s portrait favour

A Letterkenny artist has repaid a friend who painted his portrait by creating his likeness in mosaic.

The Donegal News reported recently how Macola Vonga was caught by surprise when he came face to face with himself at the Royal Hibernian exhibition in Dublin.

Portrait artist Philip Mackey recently captured the Angolan national’s image before submitting it for consideration as part of the Hibernian’s annual collection.


On the invitation of Donegal sculptor Redmond Herrity whose work is also being exhibited, Macola travelled to the Dublin gallery. There he was shocked to see his own portrait on the wall alongside the works of over 300 other artists.

Now, and in response to the portrait, Macola has used his artistic talents to create a mosaic of Philip Mackey.

Macola said, “When I went to model for Philip I asked him if I could take his picture because my intention was always to reciprocate the gesture. Obviously I didn’t know at that time that he intended to submit my portrait to the Royal Hibernian exhibition.

“I really liked the painting Philip did of me so I said I would do one of him in mosaic. He is a fellow artist and a friend and I wanted to repay him.”

Macola Vonga has built up a reputation as one of Ireland’s foremost mosaic artists. Over the years he has fashioned countless famous faces out of tiles while his commissions hang in homes all over the world.

Philip Mackey’s painted portrait of fellow artist Macola Vonga. The image has been selected as part of this year’s Royal Hibernian exhibition.

As Macola did recently in Dublin, Philip Mackey got sight of himself when he visited the Mosaic Studio, located in the old O’Donnell’s frame shop on Letterkenny’s Main Street, this week.


“He has done a great job,” said Philip. “I didn’t know about it until he told me a while back and it was a nice surprise.”

Macola Vonga is the second artist to portray Philip, after Twin Towns artist Damien Carlin painted him some years ago. Macola is however the first to recreate him in mosaic. “It’s a great compliment to get your portrait done,” Philip added.

“Macola is the only mosaic artist I know of and it is a very unique memento.”

Asked if that is the end of the artistic exchange, Macola added, “That is it now, for this year at least.”

Macola Vonga’s work can be viewed at his Facebook page, Mosaic Studio or by calling to his premises to the rear of the Cottage Bar on Letterkenny’s Main Street.

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