By Andrew Mulenga
Mention Magoye in Southern Province and the first thing that comes to mind is agriculture and cattle ranching, a contemporary art exhibition is the last thing that you would expect to take place there.
Last Sunday however, German artist Peter Gustavus
held an exhibition entitled Processes, which was in fact organised to celebrate
the official opening of the Shazula Cultural Forum an art space intercultural
education and creative tourism that he runs with his Zambian wife Namoko
Peter Gustavus explaining his work
to some visitors at the art exhibition in Magoye
Although this was the first exhibition to be held there, the centre, a large thatched building which is also the couple’s home has been the venue for a number of creative workshops and tourist activities being just seven kilometres off the Lusaka-Livingstone road and about 37 kilometres from Mazabuka.
Gustavus current abstract works, that feature old bones and ash as a medium reflects environmental awareness as well as his concerns with what happened at Fukushima in Japan. He is actively opposing nuclear energy because he believes that this technology is too dangerous for mankind because the question of what to do with toxic waste is not yet answered satisfactorily.
The Four Ancient Elements, the centrepiece of the exhibition, typifies Gustavus complex thought and creative processes. Luckily, Gustavus was at hand to explain the work to a bemused audience who could not seem to understand what the work was about.
“Fire, water, earth and air, the four elements always
represented a challenge for mankind and that is still the case. Handling them
are milestones of human history. In mysticism and mythology they play an
extraordinary role. They are considered as divine. In legends and tales man
fights with the elements for its life. Mankind thrived by controlling them. To
master them is a precondition of our modern life,” he explained.
Paradoxical order in chaos, by Rosa Therese Harter
“Nevertheless, it is an equal fight because man is not always winning but often enough the four elements remains with the upper hand. Even if we control them it is up to us whether they stay for life or death, for good or evil”.
Alongside Gustavus work was a cluster of paintings in series entitled Paradoxical Order In Chaos by a 61-year-old German art and biology teacher, Rosa Therese Harter from Berlin. Her four works in the exhibition explore the “chaos theory”. The paintings appear more like a chaotic pouring of paint and may be classified as abstract expressionist eliminating manual brushstrokes the artist may have held the process more important than the outcome of the work.
Some of the other works that focuses on environment are by 31-year-old Barbara Lechner-Chileshe an Austrian volunteer married to a Zambian and works near Mazabuka where she founded and runs Malaikha, probably the only boarding school for the blind in Zambia.
Long Time by Barbara Lechner-Chileshe
The Choma-based couple Patrick and Esnart Mweemba were also featured in the exhibition, displaying a number of paintings and prints between them. Mweemba confessed that he did not truly grasp the theme of the exhibition but convinced Gustavus to display some of his old works, which fortunately were among the first pieces to be sold at the exhibition.
“Peter informed us about the exhibition and called us here about three months ago, it was about ‘process’, ‘reactions’ and ‘interpretations’ so the works should actually explain these three things so it took time for us to understand what he was talking about so we ended up bringing some of our old work at the last, but then we also convinced him to change the theme or be more flexible with it” said the 66-year-old who remains one of Zambia’s senior most practicing artists specialized in printmaking.
|Give and take, (silk screen) |
by Esnart Mweemba
“I believe that art is to function socially and that the artist therefore should strive to make his work accessible – meaning that it can be seen and makes sense. I choose graphic and mural techniques as these generally facilitate public viewing. More recently I have become a strong supporter of internet publication of art and art related information,” said Witkamp in his artist’s statement for the exhibition “The development of the internet for the first time in the History of Art opens up the possibility of global and affordable access to art. It is up to the artist and the observer to sort out whether: ‘art is making sense”. I do believe, however that imagery should speak for itself, especially when the artist and observer are in the same environment.”
Witkamp taught art voluntarily at the Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka during the 1970s and he is also the founding director of the Choma Museum, where he is having an on-going exhibition with other artists.
|The author speaking as guest of honour |
at the opening of the exhibtion in Magoye