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Monday, 1 April 2013

Livingstone artists take over Lusaka

By Andrew Mulenga

For a couple of weeks now, five Livingstone based artists have literally taken over the Zebra Crossing Café at Ababa House in Lusaka in an exhibition “Cho! Chise”, the Bemba words that are used to call for the listeners’ attention, before telling a story.
Golden Valey of Jewellery, (acrylic on canvas)
by Vincent Maonde
The show opened on the 7th of this month but as of last week Monday, was still suffering sluggish sales. Nevertheless, the small exhibition is important for two reasons: it reminds Lusaka dwellers that artists do exist outside the capital; and it also reminds us of Vincent Maonde whom at the age of 64 remains one of the country’s most influential artists having inspired many, including his son Alumedi who is also in the show.

Although his paintings do not seem to shift from his idyllic rural narrative, which often depict women drawing water, cooking or doing other chores in scerene village backdrops, they still are quite refreshing depending on how they are read by the viewer because they are in any case timeless and can be placed in any period that extends from mythical times to post-colonial. But what is most enjoyable about Maonde is his matchless ability to use a colour range of fluffy pastel-softness even when he is working in oils. Since the 1970s, the Evelyn Hone College and Rage Gate School of Art & Design (London) trained artist has exhibited in Sweden, Canada, the UK and USA.
Camouflaged Identity, (oil on canvas)
by Alumedi Maonde
His son Alumedi’s work on the other hand has progressed into abstraction over the past few years, his figures being reduced to geometric mask-like figures as can be seen in Camouflaged Identity, one of the few paintings that sold during the opening week. His work has become increasingly recognisable because of the consistency of his bright pallet, if not for the repetitive masks. Camouflaged Identity shows a not so camouflaged chameleon crawling down a twig.

Speaking of chameleons, Alumedi’s is not the only one in the exhibition. The other comes in form of the multi-disciplinary, up-coming artist Suse Kasokote whose style is coming quite tricky to follow. It changes the way a chameleon changes its colours. If you were able to catch up with his first solo exhibition that was held at Alliance Francaise in Lusaka last August and expect to find the same style exhibited there, you have another thing coming.

In his uncanny submission of work Kasokota uses sand or soil as a medium, much like you would expect from a further up the ladder fellow Livingstone artist Chansa Chishimba, who surprisingly with Firoz Patel, Sylvia Mwando and James Zimba are not in the show. Anyhow, Kasakota is ever the entertainer; there is no telling what next is up his sleeve. The artist who literally promised us that the sacred Nyaminyami (water spirit of the mighty Zambezi River) will help us co-host a successful UNWTO general assembly, always manages to border on the shadowy, which can be quite an exciting element in an artist; and his work Royal Fwifwi, the abstract image of an owl, a bird held in very high esteem in local mystical circles, is a typical example.
Grey Lourie, (acrylic on board),
by Clare Mateke
Clare Mateke provides the only feminine touch to the display and has about eight paintings of various animals, mostly birds on display, which is not surprizing at all because she is a professional mamalogist (studies mammals) at the Livingstone Museum. Much of her work at the museum involves preserving and documenting several species of Zambian wildlife; and clearly she has been quite busy outside her laboratory because she has developed her painting skills thoroughly.

Last but not least in line is Thomas Kaoma who has a variety of abstract doodles as well as some realistic scenes on show. Interestingly, Kaoma is quite generous in the use of acrylic and uses it in very thick daubs which leave the water-based paint with a very strong oil-like gleam. He applies this technique to both his abstract and realistic work which almost immediately gives him an identity.
Royal Fwifwi, (mixed media)
 by Suse Kasokota
Anyway, it is pleasant to see that not all Livingstone artists are hoarding their work for the over-hyped United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly about four months from now, an event of which many artists speculate that streams of compulsive-shopping tourists will just stream out of their aircrafts and thoughtlessly whisk away every single art and craft in sight.
Livingstone, nonetheless, has always had a vibrant contemporary art scene and artists have enjoyed a considerable amount of corporate support from the hospitality industry. One good example is the Zambezi Sun who during the period that art lover and former marketing and public relations manager Elizabeth Mwanza (one time Miss Zambia) launched Art In The Sun in 2008 a partnership that allowed different themes and artists to display and rotate work in the hotel’s lobby on a monthly basis. This partnership has obviously fallen off by now but it would be nice if both parties could consider reviving it.

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