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Monday, 31 March 2014

Women take over Choma museum

By Andrew Mulenga

For some time now, the Choma Museum and Craft Centre (CMCC) has certainly been one of Zambia’s busiest museums.

A woman's beauty
(acrylic on canvas)
by Theresa Bwalya
Known for its effective community outreach programmes, working with women’s art and craft groups such as the Kalcho Group and Mumuni Club of Pemba the Choma team have consistently tried to at least have an art exhibition showing in the main gallery space too.

Currently on display is “Women under the Sun” an all-female show that features about 12 individual artists alongside the women’s clubs who bring in an aspect of crafts.

It features artists at various stages in their careers, a mixture of alternating skill levels too and some of them are drawn from Livingstone such as the more familiar Agnes Buya Yombwe, Clare Mateke and Gill Zulu. It also features the remarkable work of Peggie Kawanga-Omar, relatively new on the scene, she lived in South Africa, Singapore and China but is now settling down in Livingstone.

Her technique involves a kind of applique except the embroidery involves cross-stitching that is more elaborate, and through this needlework she creates floral patterns, animals as well as Bible scenes. It turns out she took this craft up when she was about 12 in Mansa but considered to take it up more seriously about seven years ago, while in China.

Lady In Green (acrylic on canvas)
by Clare Mateke
Some of the artists in the show are quite young and only beginning to blossom in their careers such as Sunga Mwila and Theresa Bwalya both of whom are 22 years of age.

Mwila recently took up apprenticeship at the Yombwe’s Wayi Wayi Art Studio and Gallery in Livingstone where she is under the supervision of Agnes Yombwe learning the basic principles of art and design. However, she has an exceptional talent in weaving fashionable handbags out of discarded plastic bags – some of these bags are available for sale at the exhibition -- a skill she started exploring after she wrote her grade 12 examinations.

She was later spotted on television by William Miko who introduced her products to Twaya Art Gallery at Intercontinental Lusaka where she began to display and sell them and before landing a job at the River Gallery in Livingstone she had the opportunity to successfully exhibit her products in Norway.

Life II (mixed media)
by Yande Yombwe
And Bwalya, her contemporary, is a self-taught artist, both a painter and a sculptor, who has been quite active on the Livingstone circuit for the past three years having shown at the Livingstone Museum, Wayi Wayi Art Studio and Gallery, the Zambezi Sun Hotel and Olga’s Italian restaurant.

She appears to have chosen an abstract path working mainly in bursts of colour that one would say are distinctively Zambian and resembles the chitenge fabric.

A pleasant surprise in the exhibition is Yande Yombwe. She is known to have exhibited in two children’s exhibition while living with her parents Lawrence and Agnes – a famous couple in Zambian contemporary art -- but this is the first time she is showing on a professional – or grown up – stage as it were, so it is pretty much her debut onto the scene.

It is no new thing that the complexities of carrying the weight of a famous name and an outstanding legacy has been a challenge to many, because society often judges one by the success of their successful parents when one follows their (parents) path.

Makishi Dance (acrylic on canvas)
by Ronee Mushipe
But, the 19 year old second year student currently studying Art and English at Evelyn Hone College has proven to be brave enough providing two pieces to the exhibition entitled Life I and Life II. Both are phrased, mixed media collages that appear to arouse the imagination to examine the futility of life.

Other artists featured in the exhibition are Ronee Mushipe, Sabina, Belinda Mudenda, Dawn Pohl and E. Danckwerts. The Mumuni Club have a colourful array of wine bottle and toilet roll holders made of printed fabric on display; and viewers should expect reasonable prices for both the artworks and the crafts.

According to CMCC Executive Director Bevine Sangulube, “Women under the Sun” is a special exhibition for female artists in line with the celebration of International Women’s Day which fell on the 14th of March. It was officially launched by Choma District Commissioner Bernadette Hamweene on behalf of the Provincial Permanent Secretary for Southern Province, Margret Miyoba.

Mask I (PVA on seed pod)
by Agness Buya Yombwe
It runs until the 31st of May so viewers still have plenty of time to see it, whether you are based in Choma or simply passing through heading to or from Livingston or the Southern province.

The museum is just along the roadside and can hardly be missed because it is easily identifiable by the huge 2.5 metre steel balls displayed on the lawns that were originally used to clear the planned harbour sites and fishing areas of Lake Kariba during construction of the dam wall.

It is recorded that these steel balls were connected to bulldozers by battleship anchor chains and dragged through the bush, smashing everything in their path. Each ball cost £2,500 and each chain, £ 6,000 which was a fortune during the construction of the mighty dam in the 1950s. Using these balls, it was possible to clear 50 acres per hour.
Apart from the art showing in the museum, they too are a spectacle and surely ideal for photo opportunity as they are unique to the town. Choma is also the home of Njase Girl’s Secondary School which has the 42-year-old Christian art murals painted by late Emmanuel Nsama on permanent display. They were recently restored by William Miko and a team of artists under a Mural Restoration Project sponsored by a German missionary couple after undergoing severe damage over the past four decades. Any heritage enthusiast, art lover or tourist would find these colourful life-sized works of art thoroughly enjoyable to look at. If lost seek directions from the friendly museum staff.
The Journey (acrylic)
by Karin Cocker



  1. Hi Andrew its Colin, I love your block brother, and job well done in the way you
    promoting the beautiful Zambian Art and its creative artist. To all the Zambian artist
    that I have seen their works on you block and on facebook page, your works is stunning guys Big ups.

    1. Hello Colin, thank you so much for the kind words especially on the part of Zambian artists. I will continue to do my bit