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Monday, 13 August 2012

Ubuntu Charity Benefit to award Zambian artists with US residencies

By Andrew Mulenga

Gloria with co-organiser Tulsi Karpio
US-based Zambian actress and art collector Gloria Huwiler was recently in the country mobilising support for the Ubuntu Charity Benefit, a project whose proceeds will be donated to the Russell Simmons’ Rush Philanthropic Art Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering underrepresented visual artists.  

The project’s primary target is Zambian visual artists with the objective of awarding individual artists a one-year residency programme at the Rush Arts Galleries in the US.

“It’s a training and educational programme as well as a huge opportunity for Zambian artists to be a part of the global movement in artistic trends and also the programme will allow the artists to exhibit for one year,” she said in an interview at Roma’s Foxdale Court in Lusaka last week.

American actress and R&B star Tatyana Ali
at the Ubuntu Charity Benefit
“In order to accomplish this programme we have a US$20,000 (twenty thousand dollar) goal to allow Rush Gallery to host the artist. I am auctioning off my collection (of Zambian artworks) to realise the project. We are looking forward to meeting the goal, and have met about 25 per cent of it,” said Gloria working alongside co-organiser Tulsi Karpio who has worked extensively in the art and philanthropic worlds, curating and promoting Latin American Art.

She said the initial sum was raised during an exhibition held at LA Artcore Gallery & Art Centre in downtown Los Angeles, in March this year that included her collection of works by Mwamba Mulangala, Stary Mwaba, Vincentio Phiri, Lutanda Mwamba, Geoffrey Phiri and William Miko which was attended by over 200 guests including Hollywood celebrities Meagan Good (Think Like A Man), actress Tatyana Ali (Love That Girl, The Young and the Restless and Fresh Prince of  Bel Air), film producer Brett Ratner (Prison Break, X Men: The Last Stand and Rush Hour Series) and actor Quinton Aaron (lead male in The Blind Side). She added that Lafarge and Akasuba Projects were the only Zambian affiliated companies that helped sponsor the event.

 “It’s at this event that we brought Rush Gallery on board and it was also just a huge opportunity for Zambian artists to be exposed in LA because we had so many members of the press and entertainment community who now have an awareness of Zambia because we also screened the critically-acclaimed BAFTA-nominated short film Mwansa The Great by Zambian director and producer Rungano Nyoni which was well received by the audience,” she said.

Gloria said she hopes to organise three more exhibitions and have an auction thereafter. When the funds are fully realised, artists will be asked to submit their entries towards the end of the year through newspaper advertisements and other media.

“Currently we are partnering with Greg Marchand and the American Chamber of Commerce to produce three exhibitions in New York, Washington and Boston in September. The exhibitions will be part of a Zambian trade mission to the US to promote investment and cultural exchanges between the US and Zambia. Proceeds from the sales will go toward the creation of the artists in residency with Rush Philanthropic for a Zambian Artist.” she added. “I’ve also discovered a longing among the American international celebrities, for coming here (to Zambia) on cultural exchange programmes. So many people want to share their skills, a lot of them do come to Africa for grass roots level projects, you know digging wells… water projects, but really it’s a waste of their skills, these are people who can be sharing their film-making and acting skills too.”

Meanwhile, she is very excited about the creation of a Zambian arts festival in Lusaka, the Amaka Arts Festival and looks forward to collaborating with the organizers to create successful and on-going event.

 “It’s wonderful to have a venue for local talent to share their work, find an audience and appreciate the work of fellow artistes.  A huge congratulation to the organizers on conceptualizing the festival and making this a reality for the community,” she said.

“I hope to collaborate with the organisers of Amaka so we can create a lot of cultural linkages and have people from the American entertainment community coming through to mentor Zambian artistes; I personally know a number of them who are eager to do so. But what we don’t have I guess is the infrastructure, a sort of school where such activities can be done, so I suppose that’s a long term plan.”

The Amaka Arts Festival is scheduled to be Zambia’s first ever international multi-disciplinary arts festival and will be held in Lusaka from the 8th to the 14th of October 2012. According to the organisers, it is designed to provide an internationally recognized market to expose Zambian culture through its arts.

With Dr Charlotte Scott, the Vice President of Zambia’s wife as the festivals patron, the privately organised event initially had the blessings of the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs through the National Arts Council (NAC) a few months ago, although at this point it is still not clear to what extent the new Ministry of Tourism and Arts will embrace the well-intended undertaking.

Gloria Huwiler was born into a successful business family in Lusaka, to a Swiss German father and Zambian mother. She is a stage and film actress living and working 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, she also studied International Relations at Brown University, Rhode Island in the US where she was an active member of the theatre and filmmaking community. Gloria has also been the face of many successful modelling campaigns.  

As an actress, she has participated in the theatre production Pent Up a Revenge Dance in New York with Nigerian Actress Okwui Okpokwasili. The Show went on to win a New York Dance and Performance award. She acted with fellow Zambian actor Paul de Sousa and Charles Parnell in the play Valley Song by South African playwright Athol Fugard in Los Angeles. She recently completed the short film Alone with Turkish Director Raif Kurt in Los Angeles and also stars alongside Chad Faust in Angst; a film directed by Nunzio Fazio.

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