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Sunday, 27 May 2012

Zukas, Kunda, Kabwe on display at Intercontinental Hotel, Lusaka

By Andrew Mulenga
After quite a while, there is finally a show worth noticing on the walls of the shopping area at Intercontinental Hotel, Lusaka.  
Cattle (on the farm) 73 x 52cm, acrylic
on paper, By Cynthia Zukas
On display are enjoyable images with various narratives in the form of recent works by three of Zambia’s most experienced and prominent artists until the 31st of May.
The organisers, Twaya Art Gallery, who used to occupy office space and enjoy ease of access in the shopping area, were sadly relegated to the inconspicuous room 259 on the second floor, much to the detriment of visibility and morale but now seem to have awoken from slumber to host Cynthia Zukas, Poto Kabwe and Style Kunda.
But, although the display is of recent works, the storyline of all three artists exudes a somewhat nostalgic, yet enjoyable outlook. However, it is hard to tell whether this is deliberate, or they all share a feeling of longing for a Lusaka or Zambia of periods passed.
Most of the works seem to depict an idealized Lusaka uninterrupted by South African-styled shopping malls and espresso bars. Take a look at Zukas’ ‘Cattle (on the farm)’ a neo-impressionist depiction of cattle herders. If it was not for the farmhands modern overalls and gumboots, the image is timeless.
Then there is Kunda’s ‘Play Park’, which shows barefooted children at play on abandoned scrap lorries with a classic Lusaka skyline showing our most prized landmark and utterly outdated tallest building, Findeco House.
Life ya mu compound (after heavy rains)
75 x 60cm, by Poto Kabwe
Kabwe on the other hand offers a timeless shanty township destroyed by heavy rains in a piece entitled Life yamu compound (life in the compound). It shows township dwellers in tattered clothes trying to salvage and rebuild their collapsed houses.
Also on display are some purely abstract works by Kunda with a very flat, two-dimensional feel.
Not only is the show entertaining to the undemanding art lover, it is a ‘must see’ for anyone seriously intending to collect contemporary Zambian art created out of passion and not necessarily to put food on the table, in the manner of the early post-independent artists. In other words, it is not run of the mill.
Born in Cape Town in 1931 and now well in her 80s, Zukas is a graduate in Fine Art from the University of Cape Town. She has produced, co-ordinated and supported the arts in Zambia from personal resources since the 1950s.
Although she conveys  gentleness through her paintings, she courageously campaigned for the African National Congress (ANC) during Zambia’s freedom struggle and in 1951 got into trouble with the racist regime of the time. This pressed her family to send her to London for a one-year art teachers' course. While in London, she met freedom fighter and outspoken political leader Simon Zukas whom she married three years later.
Play Park, oil on canvas 105 x 70 cm,
by Style Kunda
She is also a strong voice in the campaign for a Zambian ministry of arts and culture and has taken on government in interviews over the years because she believes they (government) must honour artists by building them modern infrastructure.
 \In 2011, she was honoured by the Press Freedom Committee of The Post Newspaper (PFC) and granted the Julia Chikamoneka Freedom Award.
Nevertheless, Kabwe and Kunda are mostly self-taught, like most local artists obviously due to the arts playing second fiddle and Zambia not having formal national infrastructure to support artistic undertakings. Again, like most of their peers, the obligation to become artists must have been part of the human condition.
Kunda was born in Luanshya in 1953. He went to Mpatamatu and Luanshya Correspondence School. Through the late 1960s and early 70s he was a sign painter and only used canvas for the first time in 1977. In 1992, he served as a Gallery attendant for Mpapa Gallery and in the 90s; he was part of the enthusiastic Mbile group along with Godfrey Setti, Patrick Mwemba, Flinto Chandia and Ruth Bush, he lives and works in Lusaka.
And Kabwe, the youngest of the trio was born in 1959. He completed school at Kantanshi Secondary school in 1978 in Mufulira. He worked as a graphic designer at Kafue Textiles until 2005 and took up freelance. His work features in Oprah Winfrey’s personal collection, he lives and works in Kafue - ENDS

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