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Monday, 20 January 2014

For the love of Sade, Nala is born

By Andrew Mulenga

The motivation for a Cape Town-based wanderer André Pilz to cycle across Africa is somewhat foggy and his concept is not that easy to follow.

But seeing he has already cycled about 7,000 kilometres from the Cape, through Namibia and Zimbabwe into Zambia having started his journey in April last year it appears he is quite determined to continue until he reaches the journey’s designated end in London on an open-ended date.

Andre in Makuti, Zimbabwe
Pilz appears driven to cycling across the continent mainly by an obsession with the sensual, Nigerian-born, British singer-songwriter Sade – famous for songs such as “No Ordinary Love” and “Smooth Operator” who’s music he has been listening to passionately for about 30 years.

He believes that at the end of this expedition he just might get the chance to meet his muse and idol to whom he hopes to present a fan book, with messages thanking her for the music as well as honouring her with an exhibition of art with paintings and sculptures by artists from all the countries he is to visit.

“I’m originally from Germany but I’ve lived for 8 years in Cape Town trying to make it as an artist. My idea for cycling across Africa is inspired by the music of Sade.  I decided to come up with a fan book and I have collected messages, when I reach England I hope to give her the book and say thank you for the music,” he says.

Nala by Caleb Chisha
His attempt to penetrate the competitive Cape Town gallery circuit was met with continuous rejection and no amount of inspiration by Sade’s music could help, although it did inspire the creation of a character called Nala, his imaginary friend. One might light-heartedly say Nala is the lovechild of Sade’s music and Pilz’s visual art.

“Whilst listening to the music -- Sade´s song “Sally” was playing in the radio -- I created a little character called Nala. She is a 6-year-old girl who has a dream to see what is behind the mountains [of Cape Town] that she views outside her kitchen window,” he says.

Nala, as a matter of fact, has her own website and is very much at the centre of both the cycling excursion and the art exhibition scheduled for London. In her own words off the website she says:

“…I live in a small village near Cape Town in South Africa. While hanging up my daddy’s pink underwear on the line, during my domestic chores, I noticed the mountains in the background. They were shimmering, a beautiful crimson pink at sunset. I am curious about these majestic mountains and I would like to find out what lies beyond them. I have now decided that it is time to start my journey to satisfy my curiosity. I shall share my experiences of the adventures, people and animals that I meet on this journey, if you visit me here on this website from time to time.”

Nala by Christopher Simbule
A bit of a mouthful, but that is the dream of an imaginary girl named Nala, probably Pilz’s dream too, because where he goes, she goes. But while he has creative license and the right to stretch his elastic imagination, any culturally sensitive African would argue that it is not possible – unless under a serious case of abuse -- for a six-year-old girl, let alone any child to wash her father’s underwear.

In cultures across Zambia for instance, washing of the man of the house’s underwear is the preserve of the lady of the house as chauvinistic as it might appear, it is an act of respect, love and marital responsibility. Not even the house help gets to touch or see these prized garments so they cannot even be put on the clothes line for all to see, which again is contrary to Nala’s case. But again Nala’s case is peculiar; anything is possible from a ‘daddy’ that wears pink underwear. It’s a pity though that at face value, non-Africans that visit the site may assume that washing of the father’s underwear is a common chore among African children.

Nala by Ignitious Sampa
Anyway, Nala managed to leave her village in Cape Town; she is currently in Zambia with Pilz. Just as Namibian and Zimbabwean artists created their own renditions of her, Zambian artists had a go too and our lads at the Art Academy without Walls (AAWW) in the Lusaka Show grounds who have been quite busy over the past two weeks made a very creative contribution towards the project, all in their trademark styles.

“For the Nala project I work with artists in the country’s that I visit. Later I will collect the artworks and send them to Cape Town or Germany, but I intend to have a large Nala exhibition in London, and I really hope Sade can come and see or even open this exhibition,” explains Pilz who does not yet have a venue because he may still have another year and a half of cycling at hand.

Nala by Joseph Shakulipa
From Pilz’s original painting, Nala has dark skin, a four-sided head with round ears, large round inquisitive eyes, no nose or mouth and the artists at AAWW have tried to stick to the concept except for Christopher Simbule who depicts her with a rounded head, and narrow ears and eyes at a bus stop taking a photo of herself with a cell phone. Gordon Shamulenge’s Nala however, -- as does the rest -- adheres to Pilz’s facial concept; she is depicted receiving flowers from a person made of drums and drinking gourds.

Ignatius Sampa’s is seated at the dinner table with a Nyau couple; Mapopa Manda’s is on the front page of a Zambian newspaper alongside magazine cuttings of Sade. Poster artist Steven Mwansa depicts her surrounded by iconic Zambian imagery such as the Freedom Statue and the Mosi-oa-Tunya. Caleb Chisha’s faces away from the viewer and she is tearing down a canvas that shows either a sunset or sunrise over the Lusaka skyline.

Nala by
Joseph Shakulipa
Both Joseph Shakulipa and Owen Shikabeta have very resourceful and imaginative versions using scrap metal and found objects.

Without doubt this is a very creative crop of young Zambian artists and seeing they have all done the work voluntarily and at their own cost; canvas, paints and all, one can only hope that the exhibition does come to fruition and the artists do get some exposure although it is not clear whether the works will also be on sale in London.

One worrying factor is that if he has accumulated 10 artworks in Zambia alone, how many should we expect him to have at the end of the journey and will he afford or indeed manage to ferry these to the exhibition venue seeing he has no corporate or consular support?

“Now I intend to cycle to Malawi and also Tanzania, around the Congo to Uganda, through the Central African Republic, Cameroon and Nigeria… and well it is quite safe I have never had any problems apart from the huge trucks and some animals sometimes, sometimes I sleep next to the road in the bush, or in backpackers and at times with good Samaritans like one where I slept in Bulawayo or in Kafue,” he says.

Nala by Owen Shikabeta

But he is still not sure whether he should go east or north, he says he still wants to see more of Zambia. Nevertheless, we can only wish him luck especially as he plans to ride through treacherous terrain.
We can also wish him all the best, and hope that he will fulfil his dream to see Sade, hold the Nala exhibition and obviously write a book to his own glory and benefit as has been the case -- since the Berlin conference itself -- when European adventurers trek through the continent.
Nala by Steven Mwansa


  1. This is an interesting type of thing I think....

    1. It is out of the ordinary, I agree

    2. Thank you, Andrew for the nice article. check the description of Mapopa Manda´s Artwork..greetings from Malawi, André Pilz