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Friday, 7 December 2012

EXPO preps should not be left for last minute says Chulu

By Andrew Mulenga

Zenzele Chulu, an artist who was involved in the design of the Zambian stands at the last two universal exhibitions Tokyo EXPO 2005 in Japan and Shanghai EXPO 2010 in China, says Zambia should not wait until the last minute to begin designing its space for the next one, EXPO Milan 2015 to be held in Italy.
After an inspirational tour of other pavilions,
Chulu made drawings for the adjustment at his 
hotel room during the night
Responding to an article published in this paper entitled EXPO 2015 to look at art of all countries and continents, and drawing from past experience, Chulu, who is also vice-chairman for the Visual Arts Council (VAC) has advised the interim team not to relax thinking 2015 is far away.

In 2005 we worked quite well. The procedure was that we used to have periodic meetings at the ministry of commerce and trade, but there were so many other line ministries, affiliates and departments involved,” he says “ So I was one of the artists chosen in terms of designing the pavilion. I did the initial design of the stand then the Japanese government sponsored me (the artist), because it so happens that at times other officials end up going to these things instead of the artist,” before long, he was to learn why the Japanese may have been so insistent that the artist be involved from the start. A few years later, in Shanghai he was only called in at the last minute to rescue the embarrassing situation of a shambolic representation of Zambia by means of a badly designed stand whose main colour scheme was pink.

The shombolic Zambian pavillion in
shanghai before adjustments
Nevertheless, Chulu says when the Japanese sponsored his trip to Tokyo; he was there for 12 days to supervise Japanese constructors and architects as well as add some finishing touches to his original designs from Zambia. Although he did not stay for the opening, he says he was pleased with playing his part.

But for the Shanghai one the approach was different, the advance party from Zambia had no idea or experience in doing a pavilion for Zambia, they were not even artists. I think the Zambian authorities at the time, the Ministers and the Permanent Secretary realised that their stand was an embarrassment and decided that something should be done, by this time the EXPO was already officially open. So I was called at the last minute to correct the design and outlook problems.”
Works by Zambian artists included in the
exhibition space after Chulu's modification

He says the Zambian stand had a pink replica of Lusaka’s thoroughly outdated but iconic and much loved Findeco House, a few stories shy of a sky scraper but still the nation’s tallest building. Much of the replica had to be covered with images of Zambia to cover the bland shade of pink and make it worth a stopover for the viewers.

The time I got back from china, I made a presentation to the Zambian artists and there was a general feeling from the audience that they too would like to have an input next time. So I think next time we could have sort of an exhibition in this case with the theme for Milan 2015 “feeding the planet, energy for life” so that artists can at least manage to come up with ideas well in advance. Even if it means coming up with a small prize” he says.
Final stand after modifications

He says next year would be a good time to start working on it even though the country will of course be concentrating on the much publicized World Tourism Organisation gathering in Livingstone.

“As Zambians we should try to adjust not to do things in a hurry, if you have the time, if you could see the other exhibitions, even countries you don’t expect such as Somalia, you can tell that they had enough time to do a good job, if the Zambia Development Agency have the funds they can set them aside for the sake of the design then they can continue with other meetings on their own.”

Chulu explained that based on the next EXPO’s theme; there are many areas that can be highlighted in Zambia’s stand, such as the ever expanding hydro electric energy sector as well as showcasing traditional methods of food preservation.

The fish eagle that was mounted
after the final modification
Coming to food sometimes it is so agonising, the first rainfalls fell on our roofs, but you will start hearing the FRA depots being soaked wet. But of course these are embarrassing images, we can show the world other things. We have a way of preserving food in the rural areas,” he says slightly straying from his area of expertise

“We create hollow cages out of banana leaves where we put pre-cooked kandolo (sweet potatoes), vegetables and other stuff then tie them in the roofs of the kitchens. February never used to be a period of hunger in the past, they would eat the preserved food but because we have lost that type of technology, now we buy food from the city and take it to the villages. It is the shortest month but the very worst in terms of food security, because it rains nonstop, what time can you go and look for food?.”

Chulu says that in terms of exhibition space at EXPO, Zambia is at an advantage because its exhibition surface area is usually small.

“But for the pavilion Zambia is one of the highly indebted poor countries so we are usually bundled into one huge hall and given small spaces in which to exhibit, unlike Angola or South Africa who always have stand-alone pavilions due to their economic strength perceived by the west,” says Chulu.

Chulu, 45, is a painter who obtained an art teachers’ diploma from Evelyn Hone College in 1993. He taught art Kabulonga Boys Secondary School in 1998 before serving as acting manager at the Henry Tayali Art Centre. He has participated in many international exhibitions and workshops in Europe and on the African continent and the Mbile and Imiti Ikula in Zambia. He is also a research assistant and coordinator for the Insaka Artists International Artists Trust who is planning an international artist’s workshop to be held in Zambia next year.


The gigantic, joint African Pavillion during
the last world fair, Shanghai Expo 2010
"EXPO 2015: feeding the planet, energy for life",  will be a platform for millions of people from all over the world to come together over a six month period to explore and celebrate "the close bond between nutrition, health, sustainable development and cultural tradition".

The event’s display space will be divided into 5 main thematic areas; these being the Children’s Park, Biodiversity Park, Future Food District, Pavilion Zero and what is likely to be one of the most exciting, the Food In Art pavilion.

In a presentation at an International Participants Meeting (IPM) attended by a five-man delegation in October this year, a precursor the exposition in Milan last week, Expo 2015 Director of Thematic Areas Matteo Gatto showed some details on how these areas will be structured. Of the Food In Art pavilion, Gatto said it ''will explore the relationship between man and food as an object of symbolic reflection". In Gatto’s video presentation, acclaimed Italian curator Germano Celant revealed that the pavilion ''will look at the art of all countries and continents''.

Zambia has confirmed participation in the Expo 2015 and has since appointed a commission for the event as is the custom, comprising Zambia’s Ambassador to Italy, Frank Mutubila as the country’s Commissioner Genera, while his deputy is Zambia Development Agency director Glyne Michelo.

In communication from First Secretary Commerce and Trade on behalf of ambassador Mutubila, he states that: "So far, we have a technical working committee comprising the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, and the Embassy of Zambia in Rome. After this meeting (IPM), the national planning committee will be constituted and it will include all relevant stakeholders."
The embassy recently confirmed that Zambia is expected to participate in the EXPO through the "Cluster exhibition model", where its stand will be situated, although the country is yet to sign the participation contract. The cluster in which Zambia shall exhibit is still being discussed and once a national planning committee is formed, it shall among its roles, identify exhibits and other items that will be representative of Zambia, in line with the theme of the EXPO 2015.

The embassy explained that although the national preparatory committee for the event is yet to be formed, but tentative stakeholders have already been identified. "Judging from the theme of the Expo 2015, we can indicate that stakeholders in the agriculture, energy, water, commerce, media and health will be among the stakeholders to adequately cover the theme. The designing of the stand for Zambia has not yet been decided as this particular matter will be covered in the participating contract. You may wish to know that Zambia is still consulting stakeholders in Zambia before signing the contract".

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