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Thursday, 28 June 2012

Queen honours Cynthia Zukas

By Andrew Mulenga

Cynthia Zukas’ contribution in promoting art in Zambia and internationally has not gone unrecognized, as such, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II has awarded an MBE to Zukas, in recognition of her services to visual art and to charitable work in Zambia.

Cynthia Zukas (r) with Agnes Yombwe 
at the Livingston Museum recently
British High Commissioner to Zambia, James Thornton, announced the honour last week in a statement.

“The award for Mrs Zukas, who is wife of one of Zambia’s veteran politicians and freedom fighters, has been announced in London. Honours are given at an annual event that takes place in London to people from all walks of life and all sections of society who have made a difference to their community,” reads the statement in part. "I am delighted that the Queen has recognised the services of Mrs Cynthia Zukas in promoting art in Zambia and internationally. Mrs Zukas deserves the award as her hard work in the development of the arts has touched many people and received national and international recognition.” 

Mrs Zukas, founder and chairperson of the Lechwe Trust for the visual arts in Zambia, created a historical archive of Zambian art spanning over 50 years by collecting artworks that would have otherwise been lost. She teaches art and has provided scholarships to many under privileged people to study art locally and at universities overseas.

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.
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.

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