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Friday, 23 November 2018

Book Review: Eavesdropping

Pages: 84

Publishers: Zambia Women Writers Association

First published by the Zambia Women Writers Association in 1997, Eavesdropping, “A collection of short stories on everyday problems” is no new book; however, edited by Monde Sifuniso this entertaining anthology of 10 moving stories by some of Zambia’s top leisure writers is without doubt an engaging collection of tales by local authors that you will come across.

Featured in the book is Samuel Kasankha who was once editor at the University Press and is also the author of over 100 plays and short stories makes a contribution with Good People Live Here a tragic story about a man who loses his wife during childbirth and is left with a surviving infant.

Kasankha has two offerings in the book, his second being Glorious Aparthood which explores the complexities of an interracial love affair between a black Zambian and an Indian girl that ends quite sourly as the girl is later forced into marriage within her own race and religion to “rescue” her from marrying a black African.

Milumbe Haimbe, one of Zambia’s top visual artists puts aside her paint brushes to have a go at creative writing and convincingly tells the story of a 13-year-old girl who manages to resist the temptations of engaging in prostitution and instead holds fast to her trading in groundnuts and maize at a roadside in a story entitled Groundnuts and Maize.

Lungowe Sifuniso Chabala who’s contribution Shattered Dreams is a short, but moving epic that touches on the loss of a loved one is the next story in the book. Her first attempt at leisure writing, one can safely say Chabala pulled it off quite well as it is short to the point and easy to read.

In The Choice of a Name Monde Sifuniso who has also published with Heinemann writes a compelling story of a girl who is sent to jail for killing her own daughter but is later released and, manages to get a university education about a decade later. Sifuniso is also the editor of Eavesdropping, “A collection of short stories on everyday problems”.

Free of Shame is Florence Chunga’s contribution. Her story tells the undulating tale of a failed marriage that ends in heartache yet also observes the bitter-sweet emotional freedom that can follow a divorce in certain instances.

Mulenga Kapwepwe, an accomplished playwright who is also the chairperson of the National Arts Council writes about an old chieftainess called Namfumu Ngoshe who was somewhat of a heroin. The Fury of a Cobra is set in a rural village situation and much of Kapwepwe’s narrative nostalgically harkens back to the witty old tales usually shared around the village campfires often told to children.

Cheela F. K. Chilala also makes a contribution in the book with The Blind Alley, the story of a crooked young man called Mailosi whose dishonesty later catches up with him after he unsuccessfully tries to swindle an elderly couple of their money.

Eavesdropping, “A collection of short stories on everyday problems” is a very entertaining read despite the fact that it does have quite a number of sad stories, it is in a nutshell quite gripping and as the back-cover reads “This collection Eavesdropping brings you stories that will force you to listen”.

The book also has energetic illustrations by artist Thompson Namukaba who also did the cover design.

The book was recently given away as copies to the visiting delegates at the 20th Session of the United Nations World Tourism organisation general assembly in Livingston recently- ENDS

Friday, 12 October 2018

At home with the Yombwes

The Yombwes at their home, studio, gallery, and cultural
centre in Livingstone, Zambia

*This article was first published in the Bulletin & Record Magazine, Zambia in 2012, since then, the Yombwes' Wayi Wayi Art Studio and Gallery has grown from strength to strength. It now runs an international artists residency and has received to Artists-in-residence from the USA so far. The art classes and educational tours are booming and it is a must see art spot when you are in the town of Livingston in Zambia.

By Andrew Mulenga

The residency at Plot 2613/392 off Airport Road in Livingstone is not your average household. The lady of the house, Agnes often carries a paintbrush in one hand, a cooking stick and ledger book in the other. Husband, Lawrence, a philosophical thinker, reluctant poet and prolific painter often spends long hours dabbling paint on canvases. Daughter, Yande, a school-leaver, designs her own earrings and has a passion for deejaying where as younger brother Kondwani likes fast cars with loud stereos.

Meet the Yombwes. A creative couple who form a husband and wife tag team of artists and their equally creative 17-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son.

Having lived and worked as art teachers in Botswana, they returned to Zambia five years ago and decided to set up house in Livingstone calling their home and business premises the Wayiwayi Art Studio & Gallery.

The Family Business
Although, still enthusiastic, the couple bemoans the seemingly feeble arts and crafts market despite having settled in the country’s tourist capital. Not only do the Yombwes use their home as a studio space to produce their own artistic work. It is also the venue for arts workshops open to schools, colleges and the public, which they say are not happening as frequently as they hoped for.

Agnes and Lawrence discuss the business of art in their office
where Agnes does most of the administrative work
“In Botswana we used to leave room for disappointment because as foreigners, you cannot do as many things so freely. But when we came back home we were shocked that there were probably more obstacles for us to develop here in Zambia than we faced in a foreign land,” says Agnes  “But instead of being miserable, sometimes I stop painting when we are broke and concentrate on jewellery for a week or so. Then, also the classes and workshops we conduct help put food on the table.”

The couple intends to expand Wayiwayi by building a classroom, storage shed, a pottery kiln and sleeping quarters for local and foreign visiting artists. However, with sluggish business resources remain insufficient. They are reluctant to approach the banks with fear of losing their property against a loan agreement, and attempts to obtain foreign grants usually come with unfeasible terms of disbursement.

In the studio they are often locked into debates around art
“Donors have the opinion that we are not ‘needy’ and so we do not need support. A Dutch organisation visited and told us we have to be a cooperative or group of 10 to be eligible for a grant,” adds Lawrence. In addition, he says although business has been slow, it has been steady.

“Right now there is a school that will be coming for a tie-dye workshop. We have had students from the UNZA School of Education, Mufilira College of Education and Acacia School here in Livingstone. We have a rate sheet for studio tours and the various skills we teach.”

Agnes agrees that while business is slow there is hope for growth despite imitations of African crafts from China flooding the gift shops. She only hopes there could be a way that such goods could be regulated because she creates earrings, necklaces and beadwork to keep the family financially buoyant in between contemporary art exhibitions and commissions. She says projects such as Wayiwayi do have a lot of potential with proper public and private support and she feels it will be around for a long time to come.

Wayiwayi is here to stay. I do hope it is something that will continue with the kids. At least, Yande helps with the workshops and she even had a division one in art. But I don’t know about Kondwani when you ask him he jokingly says when his time comes I will break down a few walls and turn the studio in to a car show room” she jokes.

A normal day
“I don’t know what my normal day is like.  I wake up early start painting then go to bed after 24hrs. The kitchen is a no go area, unless I’m helping out cooking nshima, because if I’m cooking I can’t move until it’s done, so most of the time she takes care of that” says Lawrence pointing to his wife with a smile “She also handles the paper work and accounts, she does allot, she is practically everywhere; in the kitchen one minute the next she can be in the living room, outside, in the studio or helping with homework”

Agnes adjusts some merchandise in the craft shop,
when she is not painting, she creates bea
dworks and ornamental house hold decor
Slightly bashful after her husband declares her ‘superwoman’, Agnes says like most women she occasionally sits down to enjoy a good soap opera, and the beauty about them is that they are easy to catch up with even after missing a few episodes.

“As a family we also sit together to sing, pray and share bible passages, at least once a week. When we are not too busy we do it every day, “she says revealing the family’s religious side.

“Whoever went to church on Sunday shares the day’s sermon with those who did not. We also have another day where we all review the week,” interrupts Lawrence “I cannot afford to give my children everything but I can afford to find time to at least listen to them, even just for an hour”.

The art
Little did the couple know, that the rich, traditional marriage initiates’ rites of the Mbusa ceremony that they underwent the night before being pronounced husband and wife in 1991, were to change not only their lives, but also their art forever.

Daughter and father conducting art
lessons for some young learners
Agnes and Lawrence’s artistic styles vary significantly without one openly imitating or influencing the other. And although traditionally they are not supposed to share the secret symbols and hidden meanings of the Mbusa practiced by the Bemba in Northern Zambia, the couple have continuously borrowed from it over the years.

Therefore, the multi-coloured lines, dots, pottery and mixed media that weave a tapestry of secret codes that help mould young men and women into responsible citizens dealing with topics such as gender, respect, hygiene, tolerance and love manifest in the works of  both artists.

Where Agnes is more of a gender and child rights activist in her works with titles such as “Stop Child Defilement” and “Polygamist”, Lawrence often explores political thoughts and social arguments and in his recent solo exhibition, he interrogated homosexuality in his work from the ‘corruption’ series, a topic not too many Zambians are comfortable talking about.

Nevertheless, the couple remain among the most emulated and prolific artists of their generation. 

Agnes was born in Mazabuka in 1966, far from her Tumbuka homeland in the Eastern Province. She obtained an Art Teachers Diploma from the Evelyn Hone College where she met Lawrence in 1988. She also has a certificate of art and design from the Wimbledon School of Art in London, attended residencies at the Edward Munch Studio in Norway and the McColl Centre for Visual Art in the USA. Along with her husband, she is a founder member of the Visual Arts Council and served as treasurer and coordinator for women artists’ workshops.

Lawrence was born in Kalulushi, in 1958. He studied for an advanced certificate in Fine Art from Croydon College, joined the Ndola Catholic Diocese as a graphic artist and later attended Evelyn Hone College obtaining an Arts Teachers Diploma in 1990. He attended a short arts administration course the the USA before establishing the documentation centre at the Henry Tayali Gallery, where he also served as VAC vice-president.

As a couple, Agnes and Lawrence take marriage as a very important component of human development, and they believe in sound family values that are bound by tradition, religion and love. They remain an inspiration not only to artists, but also to others in the institution of marriage. - ENDS Follow the Yombwe's on Facebook at: and don't forget to add Andrew Mulenga for updates at: 

Friday, 21 September 2018

Colourfully Zigzagging through social commentary, portraiture, landscapes and wildlife

By Andrew Mulenga

(Story first published in The Bulletin & Record Magazine - Zambia - 2014)

When he was a teenager, his mother jokingly nicknamed him Zigzag, because of his meandering personality. He was into everything; he was on his school’s football team, basketball team, in swimming, as well as the drama and culture clubs.

Zigzag, 2014, Mayo Mpapa (coloured pencils on paper) 
At some point, he was even the leader of a reggae band, but it is in the visual arts where Mr Samuel Nawa would seemingly settle his restless vitality. But even here the character of his technique is still true to the nickname that stuck on him by which everyone still calls him today.

The themes of Zigzag’s art meander from social commentary, portraiture, landscapes, wildlife as well as none-representational abstract and political satire. But of late his work has assumed a snapshot, spur of the moment signature. Notably in works where he passionately depicts everyday street people, particularly focusing on the vendors of such products as boiled eggs, plastic bags and roast maize.

Zigzag, 2014 Masuku for the journey
(watercolour pencil on paper) 
In Livingstone, where he has established himself as the resident artist in a very unusual setting at the Jolly Boys Backpackers, just next to the Livingston Museum, he freely paints in full view of guests and restaurant patrons, exchanging friendly chitchat while applies paints with to a canvas or doodles in a note pad. He believes mixing with people while he works makes the people part of the process, part of the art work, he is surely not the type of artist that will lock himself in a confidential studio for long hours.

No doubt this positive energy provides an animated spontaneity that matches his snapshot style whether he is painting from a previously sketched street scene or doing something from the imagination or memory.

These friendly customer relations skills also help pull in the sales and he never goes a day without a sale, the lodge’s gift shop too is filled with gift cards and book page holders that he created, the rooms too are decorated with his works and guests can purchase them upon request when they are checking out.

Self portrait 
But this is not his only point of sale, the tech-savvy artist also uses his Facebook page to advertise his work and he even ships as far as New Zealand and Canada.

But life has not always been a joyful bliss for Zigzag, who is only in his late 20s, again true to his nickname; it has had its fair share of ups and downs. Early in his career as an artist he faced marginalization and subsequent rejection, but has never given up.

When he was only 12 years old, he had a burning to desire to launch his career professionally and his uncle took him to the Visual Art Council at the Henry Tayali Gallery in the Lusaka Showgrounds.

“I went to see some art work with my uncle. I was inspired and wanted to join but they told me I was too young. I was told I was good but I was a kid, at the time I was at Jacaranda Basic School, I used to live at NIPA flats in the servant quarters with my parents,” recalls Zigzag.

Zigzag, 2014, Mandanda (watercolour pencil on paper)
The house was so cramped he would have to paint at night when everyone was sleeping and at school during the day he  used to draw comic books in exchange for exercise books or lunch, among his bestsellers were Duck Tales and the Ninja Turtles.

“After a few years I met a girl from Canada called Ashley who introduced me to Twaya Art Gallery at the Intercontinental Hotel; they asked me for sketches and for my portfolio but I was about 14 years old, come on I didn’t even know what a portfolio was” he says.

A year later, still determined, he tried to establish himself with a slot at Arcades Shopping Malls Sunday market, this is where he met the Lungu brothers from Mtendere, Jeff and Jim. The brothers, although very active on the Lusaka art scene would bend the highbrowed gallery etiquette and sell their works curio-style in the mall parking lot.
Zigzag, Malonda (Watercolour pencil on paper) 

As much as the brothers inspired him, the young and restless Zigzag always dreamt of one day packing a bag and heading to Livingstone, to have a shot at the tourist capital. By the year 2000, he had already completed school and decided to travel; he had nothing but a bus ticket and a few clothes to change.
“I had nowhere to sleep so I used to sleep on a bus, Bookers Express, so when the bus doesn’t come that night, I was in problems, I will be stuck and have nowhere to sleep,” he pays homage to the bus company in one of his recent works entitled Masuku for your journey, which depicts fruit vendors raising their baskets to the passengers for a purchase.
“I tried to work with at the Mukuni Curio market but it didn’t work, I tried to work at the falls with my friend Luka whom I came with from Lusaka but it was tuff and he finally gave up and went back to Lusaka,” he says.

Zigzag poses with two satisfied customers at the
Jolly Boys backpackers in Livingstone
He says at the time the Livingstone Visual Arts Council was very active, they had a lot of paintings at the museum but were not selling.

“I was then given a chance at the Arts CafĂ© being operated by a foreign couple Bob and Marylyn, and that is where I would end up spending most my time but they only ran it for three months because they were discouraged that the tourism season in Zambia is very short”.

Luckily he had a backup plan and arranged with the proprietors at Jolly Boys Backpackers, where he still works at no charge. But it was while negotiating for space at Jolly Boys Backpackers that he met the love of his life. A Norwegian volunteer named Silje Pedersen who was still a college student back home in Europe.

Zigzag, 2014, Chimanga (watercolour pencils) 
“From the first time I saw her just sitting there it changed everything this was after I hadn’t been with a girl for 9. I met her hear in 2010, but she later left for Tanzania with her friends, and when I asked whether she will be back she said she didn’t know,” he affectionately recalls with an broad smile on his face “So I was forced to sell an artwork cheaply in order to follow her because I could stop thinking about her after she left.

Like he left Lusaka, once again Zigzag found himself on a journey, a three day journey to be specific. This time all he had was an address, two bottles of water, two packets of biscuits and K2 loose change. Afraid to lose his sweetheart, he embarked on the journey to search for her.

Zigzag and wife Silje Pedersen
“ It was the first time for me to travel for a woman in life, then I saw her and it was nice just like the first time a saw her again we spent about a month in Tanzania getting to know each other more but things didn’t worked out then I came back to Zambia” he says.
She too came back to Zambia and stayed here for some social work with YWCA for 4 months. But a few months later they would patch things up and head to Norway for a colourful wedding.

He came back to Zambia while she had to take up work in Norway. But today, they are expecting their first child and he has briefly abandoned his post at the Jolly Boys Backpackers to be by her side during this blissful moment in the young couples lives.
So if you intend to pass through the Jolly Boys Backpackers for one of his usually reasonably priced works, you will have to wait a few months or look for him on Facebook and order something from his page. - ENDS

(You can flow Zigzag on Facebook @