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Monday, 10 February 2014

Artist continues on moralist path with new booklet

By Andrew Mulenga

Of late, the issue of religious fraud has been a hot topic on the lips of many. Late last year, The Post columnist Edem Djokotoe was brave enough to examine it from a journalistic point of view in a very insightful five-part series entitled Salvation for Sale, which earned him blistering condemnation, according to some readers’ mail he shared in the paper.

But as the saying goes, belligerence is a useful quality in journalism. Djokotoe stood his ground against the brimstone and fire laden e-mails from a number of devotees throughout the duration of the series and tried as hard as possible to tell his story with righteous regularity.

Djokotoe wrote: “I know we live in a cash economy and all, but of all the things I expect to come with a price tag, salvation is not one of them! Sadly, money has become such a part of latter-day Christian ministries and churches that one can't help asking whether today's men and women of God are more interested in getting returns on their investments (sorry, churches) than in saving souls.”

Likewise, Liyali Nasando, an artist based in Mkushi published University of Life, a 30 page illustrated booklet that also tackles the issue of “Prosperity preaching” in churches. Done through easy-to-read comic illustrations, Nasando, a devout Christian himself fearlessly takes a swipe at those preachers with an inclination to the prosperity gospel. A brave thing to do indeed in a country whose citizens pride themselves as a Christian nation and also considering preachers and congregations alike will be quick to pull out the “Touch not my anointed” scripture – in reference to Psalm 105:15 -- as a defence exempting them from a myriad of irregularities.

Nevertheless, this year Nasando has published his second edition, University of Life 2 and the message remains pretty much the same except this booklet is a few pages shorter and is printed in full colour.

“What prompted me to do the project was the fact that there is a steady degradation of morality in society so I thought that I should be part of the solution so I came up with this booklet which is premised in inculcating Godly values in today’s society,” says Nasando who sees himself as an evangelist that uses art for Christian ministry.

“The biggest challenge that we have is that we have clouded out God and people are living life according to the dictates of their own conscience and some of the clergy have taken advantage of this. Today most of the popular pulpits are smouldering with the prosperity gospel unlike the core concept of human existence”.

In the introduction, he suggests the rationale behind the booklet’s title is that God is the lecturer, man the student, the Bible the book of instructions and life itself the university and at the same time the area of study.

On page 15 of the booklet Nasando tackles
what he considers unbiblical ways of praying
Nevertheless, apart from scrutinizing the shepherds, Nasando also examines their flock and questions whether dancing in – for instance -- Church can “convict a soul to true repentance?” in obvious reference to the trouser-tearing and waist-wriggling dance antics that can often be seen in churches and on the television these days – which one might add is hard to distinguish from any hard-core secular dance. Still on the flock, the artist also questions what he terms “unbiblical ways of praying”.

Anyway, by general observation, like any other booklet or publication, one can observe a few drawbacks as well as strong points in Nasando’s latest edition.

To start with the drawbacks, the pages of the new booklet are quite few compared to the last edition and one might suggest the author could have exercised a little more patience and combined the two, since there is not much difference in the content save for the colour print. This way he could have printed more copies seeing the combined print runs of the first and second editions are less than 1000 copies in total.

Also, he may want to work on a much broader distribution strategy. He already has a specific target audience that can be reached through Christian or School bookshops, however, the booklet can only be purchased from his publishing partners Juziel Digital Printers in Lusaka and Ndola.

But obviously the limited print runs are owing to the fact that beside the support of his printers, he has no other sponsorship to help cushion the cost and he is therefore printing it on his school teacher’s salary, which obviously is not that much.

Turning to the strong points, the book’s carefully selected Bible verses, easy-to-read layout and colourful imagery could easily make it a favourite among school going Christians or on the coffee tables of front desk reception areas.

And if the artist’s intention was to make the drawings appear like cartoons for a bit of humour, they do not really deliver in this area but their strength however is in driving home his Bible inspired messages as witty illustrative tool.

Still, looking at his unrelenting drive and the fierce energy to keep producing these booklets it seems there are many more editions of the University of Life series to come and clearly with every edition Nasando will gain more experience to place him in good stead as a Zambian author of illustrated booklets. Besides, publishing is no easy task at all, otherwise every other person would have written something by now.

For the past two years, he has been an English teacher at Chumwe Primary School in Mkushi district – which happens to have Grade 8 classes although it remains a primary school. Before joining the school, he was employed by USAID as a graphic designer and layout artist after having left Chudleigh House School in Lusaka where he initiated a once popular School Art Festival.

Prior to a teaching career, he simultaneously studied for an Art Teachers Diploma alongside Graphic Design at the Evelyn Hone College graduating in 2003, but it was after completing Grade 12 in 1996 that he was inspired to take art seriously after some years of apprenticeship under his Livingstone-based mentor the seasoned painter Vincent Maonde. Similarly in the spirit of mentorship, for the two editions he has worked with two school-going children namely Chola Nsemiwe for the first and Maurice Kakoma for the second edition, both of whom are in Grade 11 this year.
For now he intends to continue working in a rural area because he believes this environment has its own enchantment, and a serenity that soothes and enhances one’s imagination which he supposes can be hard to achieve in large cities.

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