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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

German artist launches gallery in Magoye

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.

Peter Gustavus explaining his work
to some visitors at the art exhibition in Magoye
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 Shamaya-Gustavus.

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.

Paradoxical order in chaos, by Rosa Therese Harter
“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.

“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
“I have six paintings in the exhibition but only two are abstract, of course doing the painting it is a process, but even when looking at the work that itself is another process. So the interpretation of an art work too is a process. I used some ash that I had been collecting in my ash tray from smoking, my work talks about the environment and also about the future, how it will be if we do not take care of it,” explained Barbara who was also experimental in organising the exhibition as well as putting together the 32-page exhibition catalogue.

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
Another Choma-based artist in the exhibition, Bert Witkamp featured a series of three geometric drawings whose intention is for the observer to find out how each element of a series is related to the others.

“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
Last, but definitely not least among the artists that exhibited in the process exhibition is Orment, a deaf and visually impaired pupil from Malaikha School. Preparing for this exhibition was the first time he had access to paper and colouring pencils. The 22-year-old showcased a number of drawings on various themes related to his rural environment.
Gustavus effort to come up with such a centre, albeit turning his home into an art space can only be applauded and definitely has to be supported. Fortunately, much of his support came from the community around Mazabuka, Magoye and Choma and the show even managed to realise a number of sales showing that even outside Lusaka it is possible to make things happen in the contemporary art circles.


  1. So lucky you got to see that, I live in Zambia and have slowly started discovering the art community here and love it. That exhibit looks beautiful.

    Lovely blog by the way

  2. very inspirational indeed especially coming from choma. looking foward to many more exhibitions outside lsk, esp. luapula