Meeting Gloria Huwiler at her Los Angeles base for the first time, one would expect to be confronted with some aloof rich girl swagger. After all she was born into a successful business family known for the Pilatus BMW dealership and Le Soliel health spa in Lusaka, to a Swiss German father and Zambian mother. She is an aspiring stage and film actress in Hollywood and pursued acting training at Oxford School of Drama (OSD), Oxfordshire in the UK after she completed school at ISL in Lusaka when she was just 17.

But this young lady is nothing short of courteous, no ostentatious seduction or calculated detachment. She is in fact direct and relaxed, and for this particular interview wore no make-up. And as if trying get a foothold on the LA acting scene, a feat that has made and broke many is not daunting enough, she is also attempting to promote contemporary African art with a focus on Zambian artists.

“I started organising exhibitions with a gallery I was working for called Millenia Fine Art at the Times Warner Centre in New York. I organised a show with Zambian artists for eight painters and two sculptors, in 2008. The exhibition ran for a couple of months and was very successful.” says Gloria who after completing the foundation course at OSD, studied International Relations at Brown University, Rhode Island in the US where she was an active member of the theatre and filmmaking community, appearing in several theatrical productions playing Hecuba in The Greeks, Lady Montague in Romeo and Juliet, and the Priest in The Trial.

“The exhibition in New York was my introduction to the world of contemporary art, but I also discovered how under exhibited contemporary African art is in New York and the US in general. There are very few galleries that specialise in contemporary African and Millenia were one of the few galleries doing so, and the big auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s where the major collectors come, do auction African art but its mainly tribal artifacts, antiques, masks, that kind of thing so I wanted to concentrate on contemporary African art.¨

To help support the numerous innovative artists who rarely get a chance at international exposure, Gloria created Anajuwa Gallery in Los Angeles, she conceptualized the exhibition Integration for Anajuwa Gallery; the opening reception was hosted by Sydney Tamiia Poitier and attended by Hollywood actors Sir Sidney Poitier, Oz Scott and Bernie Casey. Anajuwa Gallery is currently working with Audis Husar Fine Art on the exhibition Afrika that will open later this year.

"Since I left Millenia I have had two shows so far, and I intend to continue promoting Zambian artists here in Los Angeles as well as continue trying to link them to New York galleries. The purpose is to work with museums and galleries with hopes to get sales so that the artists back home can get some sort of livelihood."

She explains that currently Anajuwa does not have a show and it is at times such as these that she enters agreements like the ongoing one with Fairmount Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, California to display the work in their lobby and if someone is interested in buying, they can contact the concierge and make a purchase. She does however mention the challenges that Zambian art faces in the US.

“One of the challenges is that in LA people want to see cutting-edge stuff they really have a taste for conceptual work. So I try to encourage the artists to be bold and to push the frontiers and ask a lot of questions like the way Yinka Shonibares work does, Shonibares work is very political and really gets noticed. But the market does differ; some look for decorative work and others look for the more thought-provoking or shocking art... so we really have to start creating the Damian hursts of contemporary African art.” she explains.

She says another challenge is that viewers in the US often want to question the authenticity of African art, something they don't do when it’s the work of a European artist. She is bothered because it appears for to be called "African" it constantly has to reference Africa. This is something that collectors often raise and it irritates her, because she feels an artist should be free to express himself without being bound to referencing the continent.

“But anyway, right now, video art has become quite popular here. That’s why it is important for Zambian artists to have exposure to get to grips with what’s going on, the new trends. Video and film have a certain intimacy. It’s a very unique and important medium that allows you immediately to enter the thoughts of the artist, to know how they think.” Says Gloria.

And she says despite her sometimes hectic work schedule, she will remain dedicated to promoting Zambian art because it is her passion and also because it has the potential to grow. She emphases that for her, art is a lifetime commitment which she probably picked up from her mother who still lives in Zambia and used to organise exhibitions. What Gloria is doing is literally flying the Zambian flag and needs to be encouraged. The least we can do is wish her all the best in her endeavours and watch how far she will go with it.

In addition to acting, she studied filmmaking and screenwriting, and while in New York she appeared in several productions including a two person show with Nigerian actress Okwui Okpowasili called Pent up: A Revenge Dance which went on to win a Bessie Award.

She recently formed the company Sunchild Productions with actor Patrick Ssenjovu. Based on their connection to Africa, Sunchild Productions was created to produce film and theatre based on themes from the African Diaspora with a strong original voice. Currently Sunchild is working on its first feature Muzungu Houseboy written by Gloria, which will be co-produced with award winning South African producer Joel Phiri. Sunchild also recently produced the play Valley Song, by Athol Fughard, in which Gloria played the role of Veronica.