By Andrew Mulenga
Former NATAAZ chairman, Edward Lange has backed art critic Roy Kausa’s recent call for the minister of tourism and arts, Sylvia Masebo to dissolve the Mulenga Kapwepwe-led Zambia National Art Council board for poor governance and lack of direction.
But Livingstone based artist, Lawrence Yombwe, one of the country’s most influential painters and CEO of Wayi Wayi Art Studios has questioned the timing of Kausa’s recent sentiments and has called for cohesion among the artists.
In an interview at the Lusaka Playhouse on Monday, Lange, one of the architects of a 2009 petition calling for reforms in NAC by a pressure group identifying themselves as Artists Alliance of Zambia still does not agree with the current leadership and described their system as “rotten”.
“The system is rotten; nothing good can come out of it. The greatest impediment with the national arts council is the director, he doesn’t understand how broad the sector is, he doesn’t inspire. If you look at the setup of a city council for instance the town clerk is a technocrat who is supposed to advise the Mayor. Similarly the director at NAC is supposed to advise the Chairperson, but this is not the case,” he said.
Lange accused the council of having no plan for several years now and questioned the usage of certain donor funds that he alleged have never been of any benefit to the sector.
|Yombwe - Kausa jumped the gun|
with his remarks
“If we ask them how many arts cooperatives they managed to form with the ILO funding, its zero, so you wonder where the funding was going. The ILO project has not given out any results,” he said “Again if you look at the councils that sit in NAC, it is only the Visual arts Council VAC that appears more organised because you can go into the showground’s and find their offices at the Henry Tayali gallery. Although they too may have their own issues but at least you can say that they are established. Where do you find Zambia Association of Musicians ZAM, NATAAZ today?”
He said there is no way a big institution like NAC can run with no strategic plan and that this is why he used to “fight running battles with the council when he was chairman of NATAAZ.
Just last month I went to NAC to find out their strategic plan, they had none. According to the act they are supposed to establish an arts development fund to help train artists, send them to school and so on but only actor, Wesley Kaonga, a retired director in the ministry of community development and at least the benefits of his education have impacted the arts and arts administration greatly”
He NAC cannot account for their activities or achievements and wondered why they (board members) should still be paid salaries for doing nothing as well as flying the world on trips that he described as expensive and non-beneficial to the arts.
“Look at this place (Lusaka playhouse) it is under the ministry of agriculture and cooperatives, imagine? This is a prime area surrounded by hotels and it is supposed to have a gallery. But how can we, because NAC is not interested in advocacy for the arts. The Venus theatre in Kabwe was almost turned into a court by government, we don’t even know who owns it,” he said.
Lange however, is accused by some of having abandoned his fellow petitioners after he was compromised by accepting a job. He however strongly denies this
“I’ve never been given a job or compromised. The person I had beaten during elections (at NAC) was chosen as vice even after losing elections, then they called for a planning meeting the same day I was having a NATAAZ meeting and suspended me for not being able to attend,” he explained “I was forced to resign from NATAAZ, since then I went to help ZAMA come up with a strategic plan, I am also working with NAMA to help them also come up with a strategic plan, we are also helping senior artistes like the Laban Kalungas”.
The new government should reconstitute NAC as well as allow artists an indaba, where artists can give guidance to their minister.
Yombwe on the other hand disagreed with long tome friend Kausa’s timing as well as credibility on the subject.
“Like Kausa said we now have this new government and we are all waiting as artists, but this doesn’t mean people are just sitting down and doing nothing, it is unfortunate that he never spoke to anyone from NAC to find out what they are doing,” he said “he claims they are his friends, but after speaking to them myself I discovered he hasn’t spoken to them, if we start talking without facts even the minister will be shocked at what sort of people she has in the sector and it won’t take us anywhere. If there is evidence that the people are not working in NAC I have no problem with them being fired”.
Yombwe said it is artists such as himself and Kausa who should come up with something, and speak in one accord and that Kausa could have waited to see what developments are in the pipe line, noting that there are “people at work in the background”.
“And for him (Kausa) to say that the degree being offered by the Zambia Open University is a joke, he is not being fair. At least it’s an attempt to try and address the issue of art education which government doesn’t seem to have the political will. Is he saying all the professors teaching these students are not qualified? Nowadays there is even what we call e-learning, what is wrong with having distant learning students in art,” he said.
Yombwe said Kausa was the wrong person to say anything against the Kapwepwe-led council because in 2009 he was once on radio defending Kapwepwe when the Artist’s alliance rose against her and that his record as an administrator too can be questioned. As such it was better for him to keep silent than “cast the first stone”.
“This takes us just back to the old group, Henry Tayali and Akwila Simpasa who were scattered and never used to work together which is what has even caused much of the lack of development in the visual arts, which again is why we do not even have art at UNZA” he said.
With regards Kausa’s arts administration, Yombwe said the former’s performance at VAC in its early days leaves little to be desired, and that his current performance at the Twaya Art Gallery, a private initiative is not much to talk about either.
“Let’s come to Twaya. I’m disappointed with Twaya. Do they have a plan? But Kausa is busy attacking his friends that they don’t have a plan. I tell you if Twaya was organised you and I would not be sitting here having this interview,” said Yombwe.
In conclusion, Yombwe said as much as he is satisfied with what he is doing, unlike Kausa who will not admit it; he (Yombwe) is looking for a job.