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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Africa’s share of global arts economy less than 1%


Executive Director of the African Arts Institute and
Arterial Network secretary general Mike van Graan
speaking in Nairobi - (Pictures courtesy Thabiso Mashaba)

By Andrew Mulenga

The first conference on the African Creative Economy which took place in Nairobi recently was attended by more than 120 delegates representing 36 countries.
Running from December 4 to 7, the conference interrogated arguments such as "Assessing markets in the global south", "The contribution of the creative economy to African cities and the potential for an African creative cities network", The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): development, culture and the creative industries and Reducing dependency among other things.
Organised by the Arterial Network,  a continental network of artists, cultural activists, arts NGOs,  the event was the first of what is planned as an annual conference that rotates from region to region. The Conference also coincided with the election of a new continental steering committee for Arterial seeing Ghana's Korkor Amarteifio take over the reigns from Zambia's Mulenga Kapwepwe.
Highlighting the purpose for having such a conference to start with, Arterial Network Secretary general Mike van Graan, who is also executive director of the African Arts Institute based in Cape Town observed "By understanding the creative economy, we as artists hope to understand how our creative practice may be more sustainable, how we might generate the income we need to pay our rent, put bread on the table, prepare for our old age, etc."
In a presentation entitled "The creative economy, development, culture, human rights and democracy in Africa: joining the dots", van Graan stated "There are at least five possible answers as to why a conference on the creative economy should be held in the first place, and those are Economic, Developmental, Political, Strategic/advocacy and Sustainability".
On Economy he stated: "Over the last 30 years, the creative industries have made major contributions to national and regional economies in the global north with Japan, the USA, China, the UK and Germany accounting for more than 50 per cent of global exports in the creative sector. With Africa’s share of global trade at just over 2 per cent and its share of the global creative economy at below 1 per cent, the creative industries are promoted as areas of potentially huge growth that will boost Africa’s global trade position. And yet, we have to ask: if the creative industries are such major contributors to economic growth and job creation in the north, why is the sector facing such dramatic cuts in Europe at the moment?"
As for development, van Graan observes on a more positive note that the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals - most relevant to Africa - is fast approaching and the creative economy is being advanced as a key contributor to the economic growth believed to be necessary to realise the MDGs.
On his third and political assessment he observes that: "Embedded in creative products are ideas, world views, aesthetics and values so that as primary importers and consumers of television, movies, literature, music, etc, we in Africa imbibe these, assuming the values, aesthetics and perspectives of others, thereby eroding our own identities and cultural traditions in the process. Thus are we challenged to project our perspectives into the global market of ideas, to have a creative voice that will speak our stories, assert our perspectives, share our values through creative products."
On strategy and advocacy, he observes that "given the lack of support for the arts by African governments who generally deem it a luxury in the context of other development or vote-catching needs, we in the arts community believe that by showing the economic impact of the arts, politicians will be better disposed towards investing in the arts."
In conclusion, van Graan states given the conditions on the African continent, the challenges with regard to development, the challenges of democracy and human rights, the challenges of poverty and inequity, Africa's starting point, in his view, should not be economic growth or development, but rather human rights and freedoms, and a pursuit of creative industries and the creative economy should be to serve human rights and freedom, rather than have these fundamental rights subservient to economic growth.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Arts should fall under tourism ministry - Kausa


By Andrew Mulenga

Seasoned critic and contemporary Zambian art historian, Roy Kausa, has called on the new government to place support of the arts under the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and Tourism rather than the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs.
Art critic Roy Kausa is also condemned the
rebranding of the Zambia tourism logo and slogan
"I am appealing to government to quickly consider the arts to fall under the tourism ministry. Then with the help of stakeholders the ministry can identify which people can sit on the National Arts Council from the various arts disciplines," said Kausa in an interview early this week "The minister of tourism should call a meeting where the creative community can sit down and map a way forward otherwise I see no future for the arts if they fall under the ministry of chiefs and traditional rulers, because tourism as well as art is dynamic. Let culture related issues be handled by the chiefs and other traditional rulers"
Kausa also argues that disunity, modest education and a general lack of seriousness within the ranks of the arts fraternity has been detrimental to the advancement of the arts since Zambia's independence.
"Let me amplify on this one, first of all let me say for the past 47 years, Zambian artists have not been sincere with themselves, sincere in the sense that we are probably the only country in the sub-region without proper academic education in the arts and lack of serious recognition from government," he said, also highlighting what he observed as anomalies within the creative and tourism sectors early this year.
Fally Ipupa
"Look at what happened recently in the previous government. If we (the arts fraternity) had fallen under a serious ministry. I don't think the ministry would have allowed the Zambia Tourism Board (ZTB) to allow a foreign musician to come and be the face of a re launch or help rebrand Zambia's tourism slogan," argues Kausa "Even if you look at the new logo 'Let's Explore' for me thats a national disaster. I'm also appealing to the minister of tourism to investigate what happened, how did they change from our beautiful logo 'Zambia The  Real Africa'. I know there was a lot of money that ended up in the pockets of whoever came up with this funny idea."
Early this year Congolese Rhumba star Fally Ipupa performed at Lusaka’s Taj Pamodzi Hotel to launch the new ZTB brand under the slogan ‘Zambia: Let’s Explore’, much to the displeasure of local artists, prominent among them Maiko Zulu, Chairman of Zambia Association of Musicians (ZAM) who expressed great disappointment by ZTB’s decision to sideline Zambian artistes.
Ironically, as much as the likes of Kausa, Zulu and local artistes at large may show disappointment at ZTB's invitation of a Congolese artist to 'rebrand' Zambia, the ZTB marketing gimmick seems to have done quite well if this year’s Zambia Institute of Marketing awards are anything to go by. "Let’s Explore" has been nominated in the Best Brand Marketing Campaign of The Year and the Board itself has been nominated for the "Best Product Launch Of The Year".
Nevertheles, back to  Kausa, he had no kind words for the National Arts Council's and the Ngoma Awards, saying they need an entire revamp.
The new tourism logo as launched
by Congolese artiste Fally Ipupa 
"For years now, the National Arts Council has lost direction that is why arts bodies have collapsed. I therefore find it prudent that honourable Given Lubinda an artist  himself should take up the arts under his ministry it would be easier for him to identify which leaders in the arts who can provide a formidable arts council as it was under Mumba Kapumpa's leadership. Kapumpa worked closely with people who had a vision... like Martin Phiri for the visual arts and Webster Malama in music... in fact what's what made things work not just because he is brother K," he explains "And the giving of awards to artists of late has been a big joke. These are just events for people to come together to drink and eat, what should be done is at least after every two years the NAC works closely with the business community. Giving an artiste K1.5m is a joke, imagine converting that to dollars, its peanuts. First prize should be something like K100 million per prize. It’s supposed to be a life-changing moment to win a national award."
Kausa says what artists need first of all is unity so that even the government can recognise them as partners and not the 'beggars' that they have been for the past 50 years or so.
Kausa has written critically on the arts for over three decades and has contributed to publications such as the Zambia Daily Mail, Lusaka Lowdown and The Zambian Traveller. He has also written several exhibition catalogues and has played the role of curator. Kausa sits on the board of the Lechwe Arts Trust.
The old tourism logo
Kausa's cry evidently comes from the fact that the Zambian creative fraternity have for a long time felt orphaned as they have been handed over from ministry to ministry since Zambia's independence.
Public grants to support the sector are as good as non-existent. The National Arts Council (NAC),  a statutory body governed by an Act of Parliament is supposed to oversee such support. By definition, its role is as clear as it was formulated to mediate, regulate and provide technical support needs to artists of various back-grounds and forms. On the practical front, NAC is grossly underfunded, disenfranchised and not as organised as well as it should have been.
Current statistics show that NAC – which is also the mother body of the Visual Arts Council – has regrettably not lived up to its own mission statement - "To facilitate the development, promotion and nurturing of all forms of amateur and professional arts practice countrywide".
As a cultural entity it competes for funding with several other cultural bodies, and as a governing body its core areas of patronage have been divided across several line ministries. This has not made its work any easier. Ironically these are problems that the previous government itself acknowledged by means of a disclaimer in its National Cultural Policy (2003, p6):

"2.7 Administration and Co-ordination of Cultural Affairs. The Cultural Sector cuts across a number of line ministries such as: 
a) The Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (under which the Department of Cultural services and the National Arts Council of Zambia fall); 
b) The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services (under which Zambia Music Copyright Protection Society and film and cinema administration fall); 
c) The Ministry of Tourism (under which the National Museum Board and National Heritage Conservation Commission Falls);
d) The Ministry of Local Government and Housing (under which the administration of Chiefs falls); e) The Ministry of Science Technology and Vocational Training (under which the training of artists in col- leges falls); 
f) The Ministry of Home Affairs (under which the national Archives falls).
The above scenario raises the problem of co-ordination for effective and efficient delivery of cultural services to the nation."

It is under this gloom and neglect that fleeting subsistence from foreign granting bodies and embassies provide a glimmer of support. Under the PF, some of the ministries mentioned here may have been merged or scrapped all together. Nevertheless even as the new government settles in, there still seems no clarity or clear-cut policy that has been adopted to foster the arts industry vis-a-vis Zambia’s creative economy.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Matero Girls pupils call for government policy on art education


Education Post  deputy editor and Weekend Post  art columnist
Andrew Mulenga (l) addresses Matero Girls’ Art Club when the
pupil’s visited the newspaper’s offices to view it’s art collection

By Allan Mulenga

APART from art's crucial role in helping young people  express themselves freely, it is an important creative outlet for children of all ages.
Last week, about 30 Matero Girls High School Art Club members visited the Post newspapers head office to view the paper's corporate collection of paintings, as well as share experiences with Education Post deputy editor and Weekend Post art columnist Andrew Mulenga.
And 16-year-old Ziwase Nindi observes that many young people have a wrong perception of art.
The Grade 10 pupil, says most pupils do not know that art is complex in nature. "At our school most of the girls think art is all about drawing and most of them can’t draw. So, many young people have no interest in art," she says.
Ziwase urges pupils to generate interest in art, saying it enables young people to see the world and the human condition differently.
Kumbukani Zulu (art club club president) -
art is healing to the soul; it is the light
that shines in the darkest parts of our lives
"Art is not only a talent, but a skill that can be improved on over time. Through art we can get to know and understand things well," she says.
Ziwase also urged the new government to come up with a deliberate policy that would help develop art in schools.
"Art raises questions and compels us to think. Children have vivid imaginations and they need to be able to express them creatively. There are many great artists being born everyday but will those children know that they have a greatest artists within them if they are never exposed to the tools to create their art?," she asked.
And 16-year-old Kumbukani Zulu says art could unlock pupils' imagination and stir them to pause, think, and reflect on various aspects of life.
"Art is healing to the soul; it is the light that shines in the darkest parts of our lives; and art comes in an exemplary character that stands the taste of time," Kumbukani says.
The religious pupil says young people needed to take art seriously, just like God the creator, who is the great artist.
Kumbukani, who is also president  of the school art club , urged the PF government to take keen interest in issues relating to art.
Meanwhile, Education Post deputy editor Andrew Mulenga urged the pupils to develop interest in art-related activities.
Ziwase Nindi - art raises questions and compels
us to think. Children have vivid imaginations and
they need to be able to express them creatively
He explained that although there has always been a semblance of a creative industry in Zambia, the arts had been neglected as a sector by previous governments, and while it has always had a potential to grow as a professional fraternity it has never had much support, as such much of what is Zambian art is not documented.
"Seeing that there are no books on art in Zambia, I'll share some of my own writing that highlights more current issues that are surrounding contemporary art, the challenges visual artists face, as well as the lack of recognition from the public and the corporate community. But I don't know as yet what the new government has in store for the creative sector," he said as he presented them with copies of a 12 page conference paper on Zambian art entitled Exhibition Content: A Stillborn Birth In The Artist and Funder’s Matrimony that he delivered at the University of California in Los Angeles during a symposiumthe Arts Council of the African Studies Association early this year.
He urged young artistes to take time to read art-related educational materials wherever they can find them.
"Do take time to read this [his publication] and be inspired because art is still growing in Zambia and I am sure at some point it will be recognised, as long as people are still active and as long as people like yourselves continue to be creative," he said.
Mulenga challenged the pupils to look up to established artists for inspiration.
"Mingle with artists, visit exhibitions. Ask them [artists] questions and they will be very happy to share with you. Keep learning new techniques maybe painting here and there, then you will grow the passion. Luckily, entry to exhibitions in Zambia is free," said Mulenga.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Gustavus’ spiritual no man’s land


By Andrew Mulenga

Belief Changes The Perspective (1999)
watercolour on paper
At a glance the vivid,  browns, yellows and blues of Berlin-born and Magoye-based artist Peter Gustavus' watercolours currently showing at the Zebra Crossing Cafe in Lusaka present an immediate freshness that lends a positive and powerful ambience to the restaurant area.
But as much as the colours heighten the viewer’s perception, as you draw closer the sharp-edged images reveal something else, something bizarre. The work attempts to blend mythical, mystical and common religious symbols or in other words it is a fleeting confluence of religion and atheism albeit in an erie manner, surely not for the faint hearted.
And as his titles might suggest, Gustavus is obviously a man of  profound reflection and metaphysical examination that may border on the blasphemous to many; Belief Changes The Perspective, Different Spiritual Approaches, Spiritual Kiss, Oshun And Her Playmates are just a few names among the twenty or so works on display that revel in some sort of mysterious spiritual credence.
Belief Changes The Perspective is one of the paintings with the most powerful and yet perplexing imagery. A painting probably as chaotic to perceive as it is to decipher. It depicts a large cross with two severed, blood-dripping hands nailed to it. But at the centre of the cross is a horizontally flipped clock from whose centre protrudes a neck with a crowned, mask-like figure extending an arm down on to the head of a kneeling female nude, with bare buttocks to the viewer at the foot of this cross who seems to have her face in what would be the groin area of the 'crucified' image, as if in some sort of sexual act.
Different Spiritual Approaches (2000)
watercolour on paper
Fiery rays of light seem to be beaming down onto this nightmarish image that appears to be surrounded by ghoulish, bird-like figures. There is no telling what exactly the artist is trying to say.
And dear reader if you are lost by this description, or the image provided with this article, you are encouraged to go physically to the viewing space off Addis Ababa road to have a look for yourself.
It probably gets worse with Different Spiritual Approaches, in which it may be assumed that he attempts to create a religious, or rather spiritual no man’s land. Here we see a 6 pointed star of David, the  symbol of Jewish identity  sitting on top of an arch, flanked by the black and white Yin yang symbol of polar opposites in Taoism and a crucifix, a symbol of Christianity to the left while the minaret and  dome of a mosque tower to the right of the image obviously representing Islam. All this is placed against the backdrop of a barren landscape with austere emptiness.
Spiritual Kiss watercolour on paper
Spiritual Kiss depicts a brown, elf-like figure with pointy ears kissing a chameleon that is holding on by the chin and curling out its tongue in readiness. Here the prominent use of a chameleon for symbolism is pregnant with meaning but of course it could mean anything. In early Christianity, the chameleon was used to symbolize Satan who, like the chameleon, could change his appearance to deceive mankind.
But the centrepiece of his exhibition, To Believe Or Not To Believe, That’s The Question an installation piece made up of a table,  old pieces of wood, coconut shells, bowls of assorted grain and a cloth with writings from the religions of the world is probably the most puzzling of the works on display. Any attempt to define this shrine-like conceptual piece would be doing it, as well as it's creator an injustice, although it can be regarded as a hideous heap of old wood by some.
Neverthless, his text for this exhibition partly reads; “In my exhibition I show pictures and an installation about different approaches of faith. I try to express my respect for the beliefs of others and try also to express that there are no superior or inferior ways of beliefs. The decision how one should believe is a very individual one and everyone has to decide only for him or herself and not for others which is the right way to believe. When we find out why people believe the way they do, we might understand their reasons of their different religious approaches and it is easier to accept that.”
To Believe Or Not To Believe,
Thats The Question mixed media installation
In any case, Gustavus' strand of creativity should be welcomed as a right to creative expression. Art in itself is often more interesting when it is shrouded in mystery and ambiguity, always implying that its creator knows something that we do not know, as we wrack our heads trying to figure it out.
Gustavus was born in 1946 in Berlin, Germany and moved to Zambia 4 years ago. He lives on a smallholding in Magoye in the Southern Province where he and his Zambian wife Namoko are establishing Shazula Cultural Forum, a centre for the arts on their property.
He took up art as hobby about 40 years ago while studying public administration and working as a civil servant. In 1978 he joined the German Development Service (DED) and served for more than 20 years in Germany, Nepal, Lesotho and Zambia.  But since 1995 he has concentrated on his art and has held several exhibitions in Zambia and abroad.
The show To Believe Or Not To Believe, Thats The Question runs until  November 1.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Geoffrey Phiri show set for Iseni House


A Good Briton In Your Backyard (mixed media)

By Andrew Mulenga

Iseni House at the Dutch Reformed Church in Kabulonga, Lusaka will next week host a much anticipated solo exhibition by Cape Town-based artist Geoffrey Phiri.
The show is scheduled to open at 11:00 hours on Saturday the 8th of October and is expected to run for a week.
At 38, Phiri is one of the most emulated contemporary Zambian artists of his generation as such the show is expected to be entertaining.
He is known for his fascination with experimental textures, and looking at his recent works, he still does not disappoint. Along with paint and charcoal, he uses anything from burnt brick dust to tarmac. A typical example would be A Briton In Your Back Yard a painting of a wrecked and rusty Land Rover, who's title probably has more layered meaning than the layers of material used to execute it. In this work he uses the crushed ochre dust of the bricks to bring out a lifelike texture of rusting metal and the tarmac he uses for the shades equally brings out a course natural feel.
Wachitatu Ni Waboza
In Wachitatu Ni Waboza, Phiri uses charcoal excessively for his line, leaving it raw to give it more of a drawing than  painting effect. The work is part of a series and it depicts three vagabonds, with one facing the viewer suspiciously in direct eye contact. Wachitatu Ni Waboza is an anecdote of suspicion. In full, the commonly used nyanja phrase is in fact Zababili ni zababili. Wachitatu Ni Waboza an amateur attempt at a  loose translation would be "Something kept among two people, should be kept among two, involving a third would be involving a liar".
Nevertheless, Phiri's subject matter goes beyond vagabonds and rusty old Land Rovers, he also has a political streak and is once quoted as saying: "If we have a corrupt country we are citizens pushing a bus without wheels" this was in 2003 when he collaborated with other Zambian artists in an initiative called 'Images of Integrity' .
In  a painting entitled Election lessons (mark X on the chap you don't like) he toys with the rural vote and how politicians are said to often dupe the illiterate rural electorate into voting for them. For this abstract work he used his personal collection of miniature African statues as models.
And in Hair Therapy a picture of a woman lying lazily on her stomach, pulling on her hair with her feet in the air, the artist brings out a playful character.
Phiri arrived in the country late last week to add some final touches in the preparations for the exhibition. He also shed light on his choice of venue for this show.
"I thought I should break the monotony, you don't have to think about the Visual Arts Council every time you think of exhibitions. I also thought why not support someone like Lwao Chilambwe the proprietor of Iseni House who is trying very hard to support the arts and crafts industry. Let’s introduce more art houses, let’s grow from where VAC started," says "Besides, I met Mr Chilambwe through Lawrence Yombwe in Cape Town, and he showed interest in me having a show back home."
In Cape Town, Phiri is affiliated to three galleries;  the Gill Alderman Gallery, the Association For Visual Arts (AVA) Gallery and the iArt Gallery on Loop Street although he works from a converted gallery space at home.
"I park my car outside and I have converted the garage into my studio space. In the five years that I've been in Cape Town I can say I’ve been well received. I think its really about how loud you speak, you can be heard anywhere," he adds.
He says Zambian artists have as much to give as anyone else in the world but the only problem is they often end up influenced by their host institutions and therefore  lose their authenticity.
As a personal inspiration,  he says he has always admired Lawrence Yombwe and was at one time taunted by his peers for his early works bearing too much of a resemblance in style to the senior artist.
Phiri was born in, Livingstone, after completing school he qualified to study architecture at the Copperbelt University in Kitwe but instead opted to study art. In 1997 he graduated with an Art Teachers' Diploma from the Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and Commerce.
Between 1998 and 2003, he helped as a coordinator and researcher for the publication and production of one of the first books on visual arts in Zambia, Art in Zambia. He has also attended a number of study tours in Norway, Sweden and Holland.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Makishi in a new light


In Makishi Last Supper  (oil), Ignatius Sampa is bending
new corners by exploring the fertile fusion of western
and African tradition, spirituality and culture

By Andrew Mulenga

Little known Lusaka artist Ignatius Sampa might easily be ignored as just another brick in the wall of upcoming Zambian artists, and may not even warrant space in this column if the red tape within the creative fraternity were to be adhered to.
However, the 20-year-old painter seems to have a deep-rooted interest in Makishi masquerades and with it he delivers a quirky yet unique amalgam of Western and Zambian culture provoking a deeper inquiry into contemporary Zambian painting in general and the visual culture of North Western Province in particular.
Interplay of cultures:
Makishi Horse Rider
Of course it is common knowledge that the Makishi mask characters of the Lunda, Luvale, Lwena, Luchazi, Mbunda and Chokwe people represent a pantheon of ancestral spirits that traditionally play a crucial role during the "Mukanda" initiation process of young men into adulthood, the enthronement of chiefs and other lesser sociopolitical or indeed tourist events, and it is therefore not surprising to see them in photographs and paintings. But to see 13 of these characters depicted sitting around a table in the manner of Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper as seen in Sampa's Makishis Last Supper strangely offers the viewer a visual treat if anything else.
Wether intentional or subliminal, depicting the Makishi characters in this manner somewhat strips them of their spiritual and sacred dimensions in an African context as they assume the positions of the men by whose faith Christendom was founded, the men who form the very cornerstone of Western faith, Jesus of Nazareth and his 12 disciples.
Speaking of which, if this was medieval Europe, Sampa would have surely been burnt alive at the stake for heresy as was the fate met by many an individual whose beliefs, scientific and creative expressions was interpreted wrongly by overseers of the church and state in those days.
This also brings to mind Catholic-raised, Jamaican-American artist and political activist Renée Cox's 1996 nude self portrait as Christ in Yo Mama's Last Supper which was also modelled around Da Vinci's. At the time, Cox claimed the work intended to explore the idea that all humans are created in God's image even a "marginalised black American woman". Rudolf Giuliani the mayor of New York at the time called the work "anti Catholic" and "obscene" and threatened to form a "decency commission" for the museum in which the work was hanging.
Anyhow, back to Sampa, as he continues to toy with his witty portrayals of the Makishi in an interplay of cultures such as in Makishi Horse Rider, his work appears to possess a whimsical, yet intelligent play of sarcasm. Of course the makishi never ride horses, worse still, white ones complete with seed-shaker ankle bracelets similar to the ones worn by traditional dancers to provide percussion while they dance to the beat of drums.
Another work entitled Young Dancers, depicts three nubile dancers who appear to be initiates showing their faces, they too wear, yes, you guessed right, makishi masks  over the faces. The young painter is clearly on a roll establishing a new idiom in which the Makishi is taking up multiple roles and characters.
Nevertheless, looking at his content at face value, particularly Makishi Last Supper, one can safely argue that Sampa is desecrating both sides of the veil western and African. But at any rate, this young artist with a very humble academic background is bending new corners by exploring the high-yielding fusion of western and African tradition, spirituality and culture. He is surely a breath of fresh air as of late originality appears to have stagnated with regards artistic content. Zambia has not really adapted too well to the so called conceptual movement and new media art that uses new materials such as video and sound, the current ethos of contemporary art, and some may argue that the local art scene is left behind. But the "new" or "contemporary" should not be defined merely by what materials and concepts are being used in art. Instead they should be defined by artists being daring enough to follow their creative calling and challenge the mundane, or the run-of-the-mill as it were. Is it not Picasso himself, the best-known figure in 20th century art who said "People want to find a meaning in everything and everyone. That's the disease of our age, an age that is anything but practical but believes itself to be more practical than any other". Therefore, anyone thinking outside the creative box must be welcomed and encouraged, even if he is a young, inexperienced artist raised in Lusaka's Chunga who does not feel too comfortable talking about his academic background. But as to who's role it is in the artistic dominion, one cannot tell.
Sampa was one of the participants at this years August Studio workshops for up-coming artists held in the Lusaka show grounds and his works can be seen in a forthcoming exhibition slated for early October.
He took up art seriously in 2005 when he was 14 years old after being advised to join the Visual Arts Council of Zambia by Dominic Yombwe. He says he has received much guidance and encouragement from Caleb Chisha, another young painter, only 5 years his senior, although he draws inspiration from Livingstone based artist Lawrence Yombwe with regards colour palette and technique.
Of his Makishi Last Supper, Sampa says, "All the last supper paintings I've seen have 'white' people in them, so I thought I should make one more African, in fact more Zambian, and for me there is nothing that represents Zambia more strongly than the Makishi".

Friday, 2 September 2011

2011 Sovereign African Art Prize finalists announced


By Andrew Mulenga

South African artists appear to be the dominant force in the run up to the inaugural US$25,000 Sovereign African Art Prize to be awarded later this month.
A statement made available to the Weekend Post through The Sovereign Art Foundation, a charity registered in Hong Kong and the UK that helps disadvantaged children using the arts, this week announced 20 shortlisted artists from across the African continent.
Made available through the foundation's contact person Nick Crabb, the statement proclaimed the finalists will have their works exhibited at this years Johannesburg Art Fair from 23 to 25 September where the judging panel will view the artwork live and decide on the winner. Besides a cash prize of US$25,000, the winner will also get a residency at South Africa's Nirox Foundation which offers residency to internationally acclaimed artists that is said to provide insight and access to the region’s heritage and vibrant socio-political development. Here, the winners work will continue being exhibited through October.
Among the finalists are 8 South Africans - Themba Shibase, Karlien de Villiers, David Lurie, Gerhard Marx, Thomas Mulcaire, Peter van Straten and Barbara Wildenboer. Olanyi Rasheed Akindiya, Andrew Esiebo and Emeka Okereke are Nigeria's hopefuls whereas Peterson Kamwathi Waweru and Michael Wambua Soi are Kenya's representation. Also up for the award are Mustapha Akrim and Hassan Hajjaj from Morocco, Francois-Xavier Gbre from the Ivory Coast, Egypt's Khaled Hafez, Mali's Harandane Dicko and Calvin Dondo from Zimbabwe.
While artists were nominated by country nominators, the 20 finalists were selected by a world class judging panel which included; Robert Devereux, British tycoon Richard Branson's former business partner at Virgin. In 1996 Devereux sold his interests in Virgin in order to concentrate on his family, leisure investments and his charitable activities.  In November 2010 Robert sold the bulk of his British art collection in order to fund the establishment of The African Arts Trust a foundation whose aims are to support visual art organisations in sub Saharan Africa. Devereux is the founding Chairman of the Tate's African Acquisition Committee. Riason Naidoo, who recently directed the South Africa-Mali Project: Timbuktu Manuscripts for the South African Presidency and the Department of Arts & Culture (2003-2009), also NEPAD's first cultural project. He is currently director of the South African National Gallery. Simon Njami, a Paris-based independent curator, lecturer, art critic and co-founder and editor-in-chief of Revue Noire, a journal of contemporary African art. He also co-curated the first African pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. Njami has curated numerous exhibitions of African art and photography, including Africa Remix (2004/2007) and the first African Art Fair, held in Johannesburg in 2008; Julian Ozanne, widespread knowledge of Africa - its countries, politics, influential people and the business environment. He worked for the Financial Times and was foreign correspondent serving as Middle East Correspondent and Africa Bureau Chief. He has advised a number of US and European investment banks on business and political risk in Africa and worked for the World Economic Forum. Born in Kenya, raised in southern Africa, semi-fluent in Kiswahili and Sesotho, he has long and deep political and personal links with Africa. For the past several years he has been building a small collection of contemporary art including African art.

• To view the online gallery of works and cast your vote for the public vote prize winner please click here

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Arterial Network launches Zambian chapter


By Andrew Mulenga

Arterial Network a continental network of artists, cultural activists, arts NGOs, cultural enterprises and others committed to developing African arts as means to contribute to democracy, human rights and development in Africa, whose secretariat is based in Cape Town launched its Zambian Chapter in Lusaka recently.
Creative practitioners from a cross section of the
arts take part ina workshop facilitated by
Yezi Arts Promotions during the
launch at Kwithu Lodge in Lusaka -
Picture by Esther Chilala Miyoba
 
The launch was held on August 5, at Kwithu Lodge and the Arterial Network Zambia Chapter became the 30th to be launched on the continent.
The launch activities  were coordinated by Yezi Arts Promotions and  involved a media training workshop on arts and culture on August 4 and the actual launch of the network the following day.
It attracted about 30 participants from a cross-section of the arts and the Arterial Network regional office was represented by Josh Nyapimbi, the chairperson of the Zimbabwean Chapter.
Nyapimbi played the role of introducing the network to the delegates as well as giving guidance on how to proceed with the launch of the chapter. He gave a background to the organisation under the theme "Advancing African Creative Sector" highlighting the network’s aims as well as its key funding partners.
The key issues that came out of the presentation were that of the advantages of belonging to Arterial Network, funding to the arts and cultural sector and political will from the Zambian government in supporting the growth of the sector.
With regards funding, Nyapimbi advised that the Arterial Network in itself does not provide funding but provides a channel to accessing pool funding from other donors.
The added advantage of being a member was the readily available information to enhance arts and culture and easy access to certain facilities necessary for the growth of the industry such as festivals and exchange programmes.
In closing the deliberation, it was agreed in the house that we must continue to advocate for a Zambian ministry for arts and culture if the arts are to have any meaningful development as a sector.
During the launch, a national steering committee was elected to oversee the activities of the newly launched chapter for the coming period. The committee comprises Andrew Mulenga as chairman, Becky Ngoma as vice chairperson, Clive Kawana Secretary, Mwape  Mumbi committee  member, Dorothy Musukwa committee member. Yezi Arts will provide the secretariat for the operations of Arterial Zambia until the chapter can stand on its own.
In March 2007, more than 50 delegates from 14 African countries met on Gorée Island, Senegal to discuss the theme Revitalising Africa’s Cultural Assets. Research indicated that Africa contributes less than 1 per cent to world trade in creative goods and services.  Delegates resolved to unite across national borders to address their common challenges.  A Task Team was elected to represent the five African regions and a Secretariat was appointed to coordinate the activities of the network.
It held its second conference in Johannesburg in September 2009 with 130 delegates from 28 African countries. A constitutional framework was adopted, a 10-person Steering Committee with Zambia's Mulenga Kapwepwe as interim chairperson was elected and country representatives were mandated to establish branches in as many African countries as possible.
In terms of constitutional framework, the biannual conference of members elects a Steering Committee comprising two representatives per region to provide leadership for a period of two years.  A General Council comprising country representatives (the elected chairpersons of national branches) meets at least once per year to evaluate progress and provide direction for the next year.  Members in each country elect a national Steering Committee to oversee the affairs of Arterial Network in that country.
It compiles and distributes monthly newsletters in English and French sharing news relevant to Africa’s creative sector and is establishing another publication in Portuguese.

IFACCA announces 5th World Summit on Arts and Culture bursary recipients



By Andrew Mulenga

If numbers are to be of any consequence, Africa will be well represented at the 5th World Summit on Arts & Culture in Melbourne, Australia this year as seventeen Africans have been awarded bursaries to attend, courtesy of the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA).
According to a recent announcement in the Arterial Networks monthly bulletin, delegates have been selected from Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Zambia will be represented by Victor Makashi, Director, National Arts Council of Zambia and Prince Lamba, Chief Cultural Affairs Officer, Department of Cultural Affairs, Ministry of Community Development and Social Services.
The summit will run from the October 3 - 6 and according to an online welcome statement by Australian actress and Hollywood film star Cate Blanchett, the summit "will bring thinkers, provocateurs and arts policy leaders together to share stories about the arts and its role in our lives."
"The Summit theme; Creative Intersections, acknowledges the arts as a thread. A thread that weaves and binds together the many different parts of our lives; health, family, commerce, humanity... It is this precious thread that helps shape our identity and binds together in a common spirit. It is critically important that arts policy makers, the people who directly impart the lives of artists, find time to talk together. The Summit promises to be a creative global melting pot," states the message.
As much as Blanchett's meditative statement may be indicative of the summits expectation, it is tempting to muse on how Africa's proxies to world events tend to play a bench warming role and how they often return without much to show, save for conference photographs and a few knickknacks purchased through the cordial provisions of per diems.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Seasoned artist, Emmanuel Nsama put to rest in Kitwe after sudden bout of high blood pressure


By Andrew Mulenga
Emmanuel Nsama (r) with Canadian artist Marjorie Murray 
in the early 70s at the art studio in which he lectured 
at the Africa Literature Centre in Kitwe 

Zambian visual arts suffered a great loss as one of its iconic art lecturers and religious painters Emmanuel Nsama died aged 70 after a sudden bout of high blood pressure after a normal day of work (at home) and tending to his backyard garden early last week. He was put to rest at Kitwe's Chingola Road cemetery last Thursday after an artistic career spanning well over 50 years.
From 1964 to 65, he was trained at the now defunct Africa Literature Centre (ALC) in Mindolo, Kitwe alongside the fabled Akwila Simpasa of the 'ntoba mabwe' fame in the traditional way of how artists used to aid the church's literature to communicate the scriptures graphically and convincingly. ALC was the art school where he would later spend an illustrious career in the faculty. He became assistant lecturer under Canadian artist and director of the Art Studio Marjorie Murray, before leaving for further studies to attend a two year advanced art programme at Sheridan College in Canada from 1966 to 1968 and returning as lecturer in 1970. Through the 70s he worked as a senior lecturer and from 1979 to 1987 he was head of the art department.
In the 60s Nsama was among the first Zambian’s to depict biblical 
characters with African features such as the scene in the Last Supper
Nsama spent much of his later years dedicated to painting Bible scenes by commission in churches as well as teaching screen printing and batik techniques to willing apprentices. Still prolific until his untimely death, the artist has left over 200 Christian-themed paintings of which his daughter and administrator Mercy Mwansa, also an artist, intends to organise a retrospective exhibition.
Among some key figures that have passed through the tutelage of Nsama are the likes of graphic designer and logo maestro Tom Mbumba, the artist behind the last two Zamtel logos before the LAP Green Network takeover, Lawrence Yombwe the influential Livingstone-based artist, and Roy Kausa, seasoned critic and contemporary Zambian art historian.
Yombwe described Nsama as one of the best tutors Zambia has ever produced.
“The first time I came across a pallette knife or even used one in place of a paint brush was under his guidance. In fact much of the movement in my work is owed to him”, said Yombwe.
Kausa regrets the demise of Nsama citing it as a great loss as well as a lesson to Zambian academic institutions to take stock of seasoned human resource while they are still alive.
“I personally feel that its a pity UNZA, Open University, Evelyn Hone College or any institutions that are already playing a role in the arts or who plans to open art institutions never go out and research or search for people who are well trained as lecturers to help them upgrade themselves as well as the institutions” said Kausa in an interview at Twaya Art gallery at Lusaka's Intercontinental Hotel early this week. “I must say its a pity that he's gone, a pity that when people go like that we start realising 'hey we would have liked him to do this or that project.”
A typical multi-coloured batik 
print by Emmanuel Nsama
Kausa said Nsama was a lecturer and a senior yet a friend with whom he shared much while at ALC and beyond. He said if there were 10 humble people in Kitwe, Nsama would have come first.
“He was a lecturer who would mix with his students as if they were his peers. In class we had friends from Sudan, West Africa, South Africa but he treated each one of us with equal attention.” he said “When the abstract craze came in, and you wouldn't know whether artists are cheating he stuck to his figurative style. But this is not to say that when we were his students he would never allow us to experiment. When he knew that we were now fully fledged artists he would tell us to play around with paints in any manner just to see our creativity”
“Even in the darkroom as our photography lecturer he encouraged us to be a bit more creative out of the ordinary in terms of our technique”
Kausa also added that in Zambia Nsama was among the first to depict biblical scenes in an African light, for instance painting the 12 disciples with African faces. But that not only did he have the passion to depict Christ and the life of Christians, he personally practiced Christianity and would preach the word of God through art. A visit to a number of parishes in Kitwe today will reveal his large murals on the walls.
“What is also sad is that ALC is no more. When the centre was still running it played a great role. Unlike Evelyn Hone (College),it was unique because it was looking at the entire continent as far as art and journalism is concerned.” he said “Along with the director Mkandawire, they started the idea of 'rural press', where artists and journalists would be sent to rural areas. While our journalist friends would be documenting rural life, we would be translating it into graphic visuals.”
Probably to echo Kausa's cry at the loss of Nsama as an artistic fountain of knowledge, it would be fitting to highlight the demise of ALC as a Pan-African institute that provided quality art and journalism training for over 30 years drawing students from as far as Myanmar, Pakistan and North America. ALC was the first higher learning institution in Zambia to provide computer assisted art and design vis a vis newspaper design, introducing desktop publishing on Apple computers in the early 90s. But the school's meteoric rise within the realms of innovative tertiary education left a crater of deficiency in art and journalism training in Zambia when the institution, co-funded  by the World Council of Churches finally collapsed owing to mismanagement in the mid 90s.
As a lecturer at the institution, Nsama was an all rounder teaching painting, photography, graphic design and textile design. He is survived by wife Ireen whom he married in 1963 with whom he has 7 children and 16 grandchildren.
Among his earliest collectors are hotelier, art patron and formerly voracious art collector Gaudensio Rossi.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Dutch artist at Henry Tayali to advise on commercial viability


By Andrew Mulenga

Marrigje de Maar, a seasoned Dutch artist who is in her late 60s is currently in Zambia to share her experience in a 10-day spin session to see how she can help the Visual Arts Councils' Henry Tayali Gallery come up with strategies on how to market itself, in the process of transcending into a more professional viewing space as well as commercial entity that is self sustaining as per gallery protocol in line with current global trends.

Marrigje de Maar at the Henry Tayali Gallery 
in the Lusaka showgrounds on Wednesday
Here under the auspices of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Lusaka and PUM Netherlands, a non-profit body that allows professional volunteers (senior experts) to transfer their knowledge in ¨an efficient manner, thereby promoting self-sufficiency, entrepreneurship and the sustainable development of small and medium-sized enterprise in developing countries and emerging markets,” she will also be visiting various players in the Zambian art community. On Tuesday she was at The Post’s head office in Lusaka to view the newspaper's art collection and chat with staff as well as fire random questions at them on their opinion on the importance of art.
"I'm here to work with the Henry Tayali Gallery to see how we can make it into a viable business entity, looking at it as a cultural enterprise. We really have to heighten the business aspect by devising a number of schemes on how to make money" alluded Marrigje, who was accompanied by painter and former VAC chairman Mulenga Chafilwa along with painter, emerging curator and arts administrator Zenzele Chulu.
She explained that as much as plans for the gallery should be those of self sustenance, there is need to re-introduce the gallery to a more general public, to make it universally known, not just to the consuming elite but also to the average man on the streets.
And Chulu revealed that times have changed and funds from abroad in terms of grants are no longer provided to sustain the running of the gallery.

Being a non-profit organisation the gallery depends on the VAC whose support from entities such as NORAD, HIVOS and the National Arts Council (NAC) is all but long brevet. Other support and cooperation used to come from various embassies, Ndeke Hotel and the Lusaka Show Society.
“As a gallery funding ceased in 2008. So without that luxury we have to see how we can polish the tools we have to maximise our visibility in order to tap into the financial indicators which according to economists is improving” he said “Its really a time to look within, even Marrigje has come with no funding, but ideas. In fact what we will be having over the next 10 days is idea exchange".
Chafilwa also commented on the aspect of visibility saying it is sad that the biggest visual artists are only household names within artists and collectors circles, whereas for Zambian singers; names are easily attached to their works. He also expressed concern on the stagnation of artists, observing how they often fall into a comfort zone as long as they sell a work or two and that this often affected the pricing of works at the gallery.
Nevertheless one would want to side with Chafilwa with regards visual artists visibility. Even at The Post, the art collection is just hung on the walls without titles, and as Marrigje rightfully observed small tags bearing the artists name and the title of the work can work wonders not only for researchers but for the people occupying the office space in which they are hung as someone might read a work's title and unlock view that was visually cryptic. This might be something Twaya-Art Gallery who have been coordinating the supply of art work to The Post through their "art in the workplace" project may want to take into consideration.
Before she leaves, Marrigje hopes to see a running internet connection, a Facebook page, a working website, newsletter and some organisational guidelines in terms of gallery programming at the Henry Tayali.
As arts observers, we can only wish this enthusiastic team all the best in their endeavours to ´re-launch´ the gallery and ultimately re-publicise the art scene.
If they are truly to achieve positive results they should focus on an outright advocacy campaign and literally poke the greater community in the eye. As much as the forthcoming agricultural and commercial show will be fertile ground to launch such an onslaught owing to the fact that it is the one time in the year when all walks of life converge in the showgrounds, where the gallery is based, there will be need to continue focusing on satellite or alternative venues. Taking art to the people as it were.
Restaurants and coffee shops for instance have proven successful spots for exhibitions both for sales and publicity. In 2005 the "Art a la carte" exhibition by various artists at Rhapsody's managed to offload a remarkable amount of sculptures, which was a surprise because it is common knowledge in Zambia that sculpture shows rarely sell. Similarly in 2006, Baba Jakeh Chande and Ngamanya Banda held a reasonably successful show at the Chit Chat Cafe, and in more recent times, the increasingly popular Ababa House's Zebra Crossings Cafe  (which by the way is currently showing Lutanda Mwamba and Radu Kirby) is proving a successful alternative viewing space.
Possible venues can include furniture showrooms, shops, lobbies of buildings, trendy boutiques and hair salons, churches, hospitals, airports, anywhere else the public converges.
If not sales, this will provide the much needed feedback in terms of how the public react to art, and maximise the number of people who will have opportunities to see it. And the more Zambians who see  art, the greater the appreciation.
Sadly,  without intending to attack these hardworking individuals - artists particularly the ones who seem to stagnate over the years think all they have to do is hunker down to the Henry Tayali Gallery and that opportunities for exposure will mysteriously appear out of nowhere.
The Tayali team should also make sure they list shows on as many notice boards, websites, bus stations market places, coffee tables and events calendars as possible.
Exposing contemporary Zambian art to as many first-timers as possible is fundamental for the prosperity of the genre.
The Henry Tayali gallery is situated in the Lusaka Showgrounds. It is the Headquarters of VAC - the national organisation for visual artists. It was launched in 1991 but was officially opened in 1995.
Named after one of the most illustrious artists who was steeped into African nationalism, the gallery is arguably the largest if not the only full time gallery in Lusaka and in a busy year hosts an average of 2 exhibitions a month with a crowd capacity of about 250 plus patrons. The Gallery is open Monday to Friday and entry is free.
Now showing at the gallery is Tilitonse an exhibition that features Lutanda Mwamba, Style Kunda, Mulenga Chafilwa, Linda Chandia, Mathew Mudenda, a return on the scene for Kate Naluyele and also  Copperbelt representation by Danny Chiyesu.

Hivos launches Zambia Media & Creativity Fund



Hivos (Humanistisch Instituut voor Ontwikkelingssamenwerking) a Dutch organization for development yesterday launched the Zambia Media & Creativity Fund at the Courtyard Hotel in Lusaka.
At a roundtable meeting for invited stake-holders that included  the arts and culture community, media organisations, commercial enterprises and individual professionals, Hivos announced that the "Zambia Media & Creativity Fund envisions supporting initiatives by Zambians that clearly demonstrate innovation, as well as building of capacity within the established arts, culture and media sector. The fund will focus on media, art professionals and volunteers with an intermediary role: journalists, bloggers, performers, artists, cultural and ICT entrepreneurs and their initiatives, media and platforms.
Capacity building through training and exchange will be an important inherent part of the Zambia Media & Creativity Fund. By setting up a network within the country, the Zambia Media & Creativity Fund will stimulate peer exchange and common learning.
For 2011, € 132.000 is available to be allocated through a maximum of 6 grants. The size of the grants has been defined on basis of the following strategic objectives:
3 grants of € 12.000 for ‘small/upcoming’ innovative and possibly ‘risky’ projects. For example for individual initiatives like digital natives – discussions on Facebook on where in Lusaka there are potholes and a radio station to feature that in a 5 minutes morning spot every time till city council does something about it.
3 grants of € 32.000 for bigger ideas and organisations, for more expensive projects like for example ‘urban art’ or creating a social space to use internet, meet and engage.
Together with the awarding of the grant, a training and/or exchange programme will be defined jointly between the partner organisation and Hivos for each specific project. This will be designed after a baseline study which will be carried out with partners selected after the call for proposals.
They will take off as part of the Expression & Engagement programme of the Southern Africa regional office of Hivos and will run from 2011-2015. The proposals will be selected and grants awarded under the responsibility of the programme officer Expression & Engagement for Southern Africa. The administration of the programme will be handled by the regional office of Hivos.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Mwaba, Sanderson, Planel lend ambience to Zebra Crossings Cafe

By Andrew Mulenga

The Zebra Crossings Cafe, Ababa House's cosy little bar and restaurant on Lusaka's Addis Ababa drive is once again host to an art exhibition.
Winter Shiraz (Acrylic on canvas)
 by Nicole Sanderson
This time Frank Planel, Ngandwe Mwaba and Nicole Sanderson paintings and drawings have lent to the ambience of the dining area of the cafe. Speaking of which, Planel's large format animal-themed pastel drawings and acrylic paintings appear to be quite at home as they go well with the Zebra print salt-sellers and the gecko bass relief wooden pillars.
In fact, Planel's drawings make up the greater part of the exhibition with about 10 works on display. But before you get to the corner where his work is displayed, you are greeted by a flirtatious little painting by Sanderson entitled Winter Shiraz which depicts the close cropped lower torso of a woman clad only in panties and stockings that appears to be upside down. Judging from its soft shades of red as well as its title, one can deduce that it
Pick ‘N Play (Ballpoint pen on paper)
by Ngandwe Mwaba
was partially inspired by Shiraz red wine. To the immediate left there is yet another interesting painting by the artist, a semi abstract painting of a woman playfully caressing her naked back. Unfortunately, despite her entertaining themes, Sanderson only has about four works in total on display.
Mwaba's work is in the space right after Sanderson's. He has about six on display and all of them are in his  trademark medium, ball point pen, the kind found in the pencil case of every school bag. And while he too does not seem to have a specific theme, it is becoming a delight to see what the young artist is able to do with an everyday writing tool.
Zebra (Acrylic on canvas)
by Francis Planel
Out of his six works on display, four were booked for purchase on the opening night.  According to Mwaba, he managed to secure a purchase for one of the works even before it could be hung up. As alternative exhibition space, Ababa House is becoming increasingly popular with a constant flow of small, but significant artistic activities. On Thursday July 14 they will be hosting a must see exhibition featuring all round artist Lutanda Mwamba and painter Radu Kirby. While we appreciate all that Serena and team are doing with regards their enthusiasm and support for the arts, it would be good if they could print mini portfolios of the artists whose works are on display at any given time. In this case not much is know about Planel and Sanderson, so some mini biographies could have really come in handy, especially because artists cannot be present throughout the duration of an exhibition.
Mwaba, nevertheless was available and expressed enthusiasm at the opportunity to exhibit it the Zebra Crossing Cafe.
"Personally, this is a good thing for me. In terms of career I think this place is a good apace to be spotted. I see myself gaining new collectors. I think it has also helped me gain a little confidence to work towards my first solo exhibition some time. But I can’t say I'm not in a hurry for that" he says.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Harmony among Zim artists inspires Chikwa



...while feuding continues to characterise Zambian scene


By Andrew Mulenga

Lawrence Chikwa has just returned from Zimbabwe where he was invited to exhibit in an international show entitled 'Beyond Borders' held in honour of late Mozambican painter and poet Velente Malangatana who died early this year.
Zambian artist Lawrence Chikwa with internationally
acclaimed Zimbabwean sculptor Tapfuma Gutsa during
the Harare International Festival of the Arts where Chikwa
was invited to exhibit
Hosted at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and curated by Raphael Chikukwa, the exhibition was part of this year's Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) and involved about 50 artists from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Germany and Sweden, with Chikwa being the only Zambian.
The artist has considerable study and exhibition exposure in Europe, and has given the Weekend Post several interviews before. But returning from neighbouring Zimbabwe, he appears to come back with a strong admiration not for the works he has seen nor an excitement for exhibiting in the same gallery as Malangatana, but by the unity of the artists, young and old with whom he mingled.
"The conflicts of the generation gaps that we have in Zambia, I didn't see them in Zimbabwe. In Harare, the conflict between senior and upcoming artists does not exist, everyone works together. I even met Tapfuma Gutsa (a Zimbabwean sculptor of international acclaim) and we spoke at length. He asked so much about Zambia and told me he studied with Flinto Chandia (a Zambian sculptor) in London during the 80s," says Chikwa.
He explains that for him, the Harare experience is not just important because he exhibited, but he thinks its also important in how he now views the disunity on the Zambian scene. The 37-year-old believes Zambian artists have to 'come back together' and that if someone in his generation does not make a move, the visual arts will continue to suffer what he describes as an inertia towards development that has crippled the sector for decades.
"We have been having this problem for over fifteen years or so. In fact, it is a two way thing; there are older artists who think too much of their seniority and then there are younger ones who think so much of their international exposure and therefore cannot be told anything," he says. "There is need for us to come together as artists. If you hold a talk or discussion at a certain venue, some people won't come. So if I was to present a paper, I would rather do it on neutral grounds, such as here at The Post".
For any dedicated observer of Zambian visual arts politics - including the generation wrangles that Chikwa mentions - one would want to agree with him and acknowledge that his assertions hold true. Cynicism has been at the very core of the arts' internal politics.
In fact, it is tempting to describe the scenario as a microcosm of the bigger Zambian political picture and furthermore enticing to borrow from a past editorial comment entitled "A nation of cynics" published in The Post of January 11, 2005: "Cynics have never built any nation or community. There's need for all of us to accept and respect the right of every citizen to participate in the building of this nation," read the editorial in part.
In the arts context nonetheless, it can be said that cynical artists young or old will never build a viable and self-sustaining arts community. There is need for every artist to accept and respect the creative right and ability of every artistic citizen to participate in the building of this creative industry.
In conclusion, the 2005 editorial read: "Whatever contradictions arise among our people, let's resolve them through unity. By this we mean that we have always to start from the desire for unity, resolving contradictions through criticism or struggle and arriving at a new unity on a new basis. It is imperative to overcome anything that impairs unity in the nation because without unity, we won't make any meaningful progress." Now that definitely needs no paraphrasing because in any context, it speaks for itself.
So, Chikwa's cry and newfound energy to champion unity among artists has to be supported. It is surprising how artists, no matter how much international exposure they seem to be getting, find it so hard to work together in a fledgling visual arts sector such as Zambia's. The blame is often thrown at the lack of public support when indeed the artists themselves are not united. It is only at a time when they do so that there will be any meaningful progress for arts advocacy.
Chikwa showed 7 works during this year's HIFA exhibition. HIFA is a 6 day annual festival and workshop programme that showcases the very best of Zimbabwean, regional and international arts and culture in a comprehensive programme of theatre, dance, music, circus, street performance, spoken word and visual arts.
According to Professor Luc Rukingama of the United National Eductational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in a forward for the Beyond Borders exhibition catalogue, for over a decade now, UNESCO has partnered with HIFA and during the past two years, UNESCO has focused specifically on support towards exposure of visual arts during the festival with an objective to provide marginalised Zimbabwean artists a platform on an international stage.
Surely, what would stop UNESCO supporting a 'Lusaka International Arts Festival' (if there were ever to be one in our life times), or supporting marginalised Zambian artists by helping providing an international platform? You guessed right; a cynical and disenfranchised arts fraternity who do not even have a Lusaka Arts Festival in their thoughts.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Museums: more than just a collection of dusty old bones


The Livingstone Museum

By Andrew Mulenga

IS it possible that a heritage as diverse and complex as Zambia’s museums can be summed up as just storerooms for relics? Probably not. Livingstone Museum for instance, Zambia's oldest, is not just a storage for some personal belongings of a 19th century Scottish explorer - Dr David Livingstone. Livingstone Museum actually is a blend of scents, sounds, colours and gives an anecdote of Zambia’s cultural heritage, history in motion – all in one building.
A cast replica of the Broken Hill skull in Livingstone, 
the original is in London and there is no talk of its return
But in a country whose majority of citizens are clearly a "non-museum- going" people, if there was ever such a term, it is easy to fall prey to such beliefs.
An amateur workplace survey taken by the author revealed that not even one in 20 workmates had ever set foot in a museum, and imagined that Zambia has six dotted across the country. Many see museums as stops for tourists and school pupils and as such, not even the average entry charge of K2,500 is able to attract them.
Well, a word to all museum skeptics or "non-museum-going" folk, you do not know what you are missing.
Take the largest, Livingstone Museum for instance. It has several galleries that show everything from the relics of the prehistoric inhabitants of Zambia to British colonial rule, to the struggle for independence as well as a large collection of David Livingstone’s personal items that include hand written letters, journals and maps.
The introduction area, right under the clock tower that was once rumoured by locals to house storage for dead bodies has a scale model of the Victoria Falls and its gorges. The most striking feature in this area is a colossal wood carving of an Ila Chief called Mukobela, by Ivan Mitford Barberton. Here, there is not much to see, but as you enter the Natural History galleries, the first being the  Archaeology gallery, it becomes more interesting.
It is aptly labelled; "The Origins Of Humans In Zambia". The display tries to put together remains from the earliest settlements as well as provide maps depicting Ethnographic migrations of Zambia's modern day inhabitants.
Zambian museums are crowd-pullers for foreign tourists, 
but locals rarely set foot in them, 
even at an entry fee as low as K2,500
Among the key features here are a die-cast replica of the Broken Hill Man, or discovered in Kabwe in 1921, unfortunately for purists, the original fossil which is said to date back to about 200,000 years-ago has been in the UK since the find was discovered. Also notable is a rock painting extracted from the Nachikufu Caves near Mpika that depict a hunter chasing an eland, a type of large antelope that no longer exists in that area, then there is a skeleton from 700 AD excavated from Isamu Pati mound near Kalomo. Then there is the 14th Century copper bracelets from the Ing'ombe Ilede site in Southern Province. Interestingly, Copper was never mined in this area, so this suggests that there was trade between the ancient inhabitants of this area with the people of the interior, what is now Congo.
As you exit the pre-history area, the visit takes you to a section labelled "Our Village", which basically gives an insight into modern day village life. Here, you reach a 'fork in the road' and have the option of either continuing with a "Natural Environment" tour or go straight to the "Your Town" section. The "Natural Environment" gallery displays an array of meticulously preserved animal specimens; reptiles, birds and mammals, including a rare treat such as the Black Lechwe which is only indigenous to Lake Bangweulu in Zambia.
A visit to the  "Your Town" mimics the urban migration from hence the "Our Village" to "Your Town". Through models, this display interestingly tries to portray what village folk go through when they migrate to the city for 'greener pastures'. This area has an interesting and nostalgic collection of grocery products that disappeared from supermarket shelves years ago. Older Zambians may recognise popular products of the past such as "Wendi" and "Dynamo" detergent pastes.
A copy oh Nkhani, one of the 'native'
language newspapers from 1959
Still within the ethnography galleries, the tour continues through a number of displays showing artifacts from initiation rites, marriage and long lost crafts such as cloth made from the bark of trees. Further down we find a display of herbal remedies and traditional belief systems that include witchcraft and sects that involve ancestor worship and border on Zionism. Featuring, quite prominent here are witches, or sorcerers tools such as "lilombamema" a ghastly looking bundle of beds, cloth and reptile skins that is said to have been used to kill people by supernatural means. It was discovered by a witch finder in Dambwa Site and Service, Livingstone. The nearby community alerted the museum of the discovery and the witch-finder who confiscated it then donated the 'defused' item to the Museum. There is also a "kaliloze" gun used for similar purposes and a wooden, streamlined "aeroplane" the size of a wine bottle that looks like a cross between a speedboat, a jetfighter and a submarine. This is said to have the power to fly its occupants to any destination under the cover of night. It is also said to be propelled by human blood.
The tour is temporarily disrupted at this point as viewers have to exit the galleries on to a Spanish-style courtyard, but it continues through the David Livingstone gallery which displays some of the explorer’s original, personal effects, clothing, guns and signed letters. From this point on, the gallery display takes the visitor on a journey through the history of Zambia from 1500 to 2001. It focuses on the early chiefdoms and later kingdoms and people from the outside world such as the Swahili, the Arabs the early European settlers, slave traders and missionaries. The themes summarised here are the colonization process, colonial rule, the federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, nationalism or the struggle of independence; achievement of independence and the Independence Day celebrations on 24th October 1964. On display are some very rare and interesting images of the struggle heroes such as Donald Siwale, founder of Mwenzo Welfare Association, Kapasa Makasa who galvanised Northern Province during the struggle, Paul Kalichini whom alongside Frank Chitambala founded ANIP a party which later merged with UNFP to form UNIP and Munukayumbwa Sipalo, a charismatic nationalist leader whom the colonial government considered a radical communist to name a few. It is quite moving to see images of men and women who were ready to lay down their lives for the freedom of their people a clearly selfless breed of leader of whom Zambia has long been bereft, leaders with the people at heart, if only the same could be said of contemporary Zambian leadership, so much for the struggle. It is in this gallery that you can also find a copy of a letter of encouragement written on toilet paper by Kenneth Kaunda that was smuggled to his comrades during the struggle, there are also images of the earliest 'native' newspapers form the 1950s, "Lywashi" and "Nkhani Za Kum'mawa".
Clockwise from top left James Paikani Phiri,
Robin Kamima, John Chanda and Edward
Cresta Ngebe African nationalists who were
accused of having caused
the death of Lilian Burton, a white settler were
sentenced to death and hanged on November 27, 1961
The tour ends on a completely political note with themes from the First Republic, the Second Republic and finally the Third Republic, seeing us through Kenneth Kaunda, Frederick Chiluba and Levy Mwanawasa. At this stage you would have forgotten about your journey into time at the beginning of the tour, the rock painting extracted from the caves of the Kalambo Falls, the skeleton from 700 AD excavated from Isamu Pati mound near Kalomo and  the 14th Century copper bracelets from the Ing'ombe Ilede site in Southern Province.
Nevertheless, as a Zambian, one leaves the museum with a rekindled sense of identity and an inspired urge to "Stand and sing of Zambia" as per National Anthem.

Behind the scenes

Having viewed the galleries, any visitor to the Livingstone Museum would leave content that they have had their fill of the institution’s treasures. But in fact what is on display for public viewing is not even 5 per cent of the museum’s catalogued artifacts. Not open to the general public is a labyrinth of corridors and storerooms, that people do not even know exist. Fortunately the author was given a personalised tour of the inner recesses of the museum by the director himself, Victor Katenekwa.
Katenekwa and his expert team of anthropologists are in fact a lot more than a band of museum staff who dust off old bones and artifacts for a living. His is a team of Herpetologists (who study reptiles and amphibians), Entomologists (who study insects), Osteologists (who study detailed bone structure), video production specialists and archivists whose job is to painstakingly collect, document and catalogue every manner of insect, animal and cultural activity in Zambia. Much of this work cannot be appreciated by the public because they do not even know that it is being undertaken.
One can only stare in wonder as the likes of Peter Chitungu assistant conservator- natural history specimens opens drawer after drawer of both common and rare insects, points out shelf after shelf of animal bones and hides, lions, leopards and kudu. 
Lilombamema a 'Defused' sorcerers
gadget formerly used to kill people 

But it is the spine-chilling chambers overseen by Mungoni Sitali senior keeper responsible for ethnography and art that leaves one in wonder. Here several 'defused' gadgets formerly used for sorcery can be found among the witchcraft collectio,n some of which are even strewn across the floor. And as you enter, the thought of the gadgets still having their potency crosses the mind. But alongside the witchcraft can be found hundreds of traditional stools, masks and weapons from all over Zambia.
The museum’s famous tower is used for storage too, but contrary to the urban myth, it doesn't house dead bodies. It’s storeroom for thousands of the nations earliest documents and newspapers, here you can find the likes of Kingsley Choongo, assistant conservator-paper and archives, carefully cataloguing documents that are now in the process of being digitised. When all the documents are digitised visitors will be given passwords with which to access the virtual archives of the museum.
Although all these areas are out of bounds to the general public, upon request, by directly writing to the director, researchers may be given access to certain areas.
But as can be seen, there is more to museums than collection of old bones and archives, maybe they can best be described in the words of executive secretary Flexon Mizinga: "As museums, we are generally the custodians of the country's heritage. And also for the purpose of future generations to know who we are, and where we are coming from. But in a nutshell, the national museums were created so that the country's heritage is collected, interpreted, documented and preserved". 
And Clare Mateke a mammalogist (studies mammals) at the Livingstone museum challenged locals not to leave museum visits to tourists. 
"Don't wait for foreign guests to ask you to take them to the nearest museum. We should not see museums as places for tourists" she says.
Mateke also emphasised that Zambian museums are not just one off displays of artifacts, but they are research institutions that are constantly studying the past and present and networking with similar institutions across the globe.