...but has no qualms with polygamy
By Andrew Mulenga
Women and child abuse, polygamy and environmental awareness. A complex thread with which Livingston-based artist Agnes Buya Yombwe weaves a rich tapestry in an exhibition entitled Social Issues that is now showing at the Livingston Museum.
|Police Commissioner, Southern Province Brenda Muntemba |
with artist Agness Buya Yombwe at the openning of
her art exhibition at the Livingston Museum
Officially opening the exhibition as guest of honour last week, Commissioner of Police Southern Province, Brenda Muntemba says looking at the art work she could see the artist simply reaching out and saying abuse and gender based violence are wrong and should be stopped.
“You have to go beyond the pictures, what I like is that she is talking about things we are usually ashamed to talk about, things that we want to ignore and pretend do not occur or exist,” said Muntemba in an interview “But the exhibition itself goes beyond abuse because it challenges silence.”
Muntemba, a strong advocate of non-violence against women added that we are brought-up in a culture that says it is okay to suffer abuse as a woman.
|Stop Women Abuse (mixed media) |
75x60cm by Agness Yombwe
“Sadly for us as police, one day she (the wife) will wake up on the wrong side of the bed and stab her abusive husband then for us the law will have to take its course regardless of the obvious abuse that was a build up to the final act. We therefore need more people like Agnes to come out and stop the silence.”
As Muntemba says, Agnes’ message is loud and clear, stop the abuse. However, what is thoroughly absorbing in her work is the playfulness with which she handles material on such complicated and serious matters like wife batter.
A typical example is a painting entitled “Stop Women Abuse”. It shows a woman in stitches with a disfigured face depicted in a rudimentary and playful manner. Agnes however explains the playfulness in some of her works.
“There is an inner-child that is released when I am working, it just jumps out. That is why I enjoy the times when I am working with children. I play; there is that freedom I am able to bring out emotions freely without worrying too much. Because the children themselves are sincere and true. “She explained after the opening night.
She also explained that she sees her work as a constant work in progress pointing at a work entitled Rythms of the Heart she said it is a painting that she had changed twice over the past two years.
“look at this work for instance at first it had tears painted down its face, this was a time when I was taking care of a relative who was admitted to a mental hospital. But I rubbed them off... when things improved, the patient became better, “she said.
Polygamy constantly pops up in her work, and when asked to explain, Agnes gives a somewhat controversial answer.
|Polygamist (acrylic on canvas) 125 x 104 |
by Agness Buya Yombwe
“I’m Tumbuka by tribe, it’s in my family. One of my uncles has 14 wives. My own dad was once encouraged to get another wife after having too many daughters and no son. But he stood his ground and later had two sons and eight daughters”
“I can say I sometimes support polygamy, because if a man can be honest and sincere that he is not satisfied with one wife that is better than having several girlfriends. It’s better that people know where he is if he doesn’t come home, if you see most of my work it is just one man and two women... it should never go beyond two women.”
Agnes needs no introduction on the Zambian art scene. She is the feminine half of the artistic couple Lawrence and Agnes, the duo set up shop in Livingstone opening WayiWayi Gallery and Studio after serving as teachers for over 10 years in Botswana. A painter, sculptor, printmaker, textile artist, administrator and jeweller. At 46, she is a mother of two teenagers who splits her time by also being a wife and running classes and workshops at the gallery.
She graduated from Evelyn Hone College in 1989 and has attended training in the US, Norway and the UK. She is viewed by many as being responsible for inspiring an entire generation of young female artists in her wake.
Her current exhibition could be best summed up in the words of “fellow artist and Lechwe Art Trust Chairperson Cynthia Zukas:
I was very lucky to be in Livingston so i can catch this wonderful exhibition by Agnes Yombwe. I’m so impressed, her work about the abuse of women and children are quite profound... and also her lighter works full of design and colour i really wish her every success.”