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Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Ng’andwe probes contaminated culture in debut solo

By Andrew Mulenga

Scheduled for 17:00hrs on Thursday 7 July, the Red Dot Gallery at the Ababa House off Addis Ababa Drive in Lusaka is set to host Ng’andwe Mwaba’s debut solo.

The Ngoma Awards Best Upcoming Artist 2009 is likely to catch his collectors and followers’ off-guard with new techniques and a return to painting with an all new palette.  

Norms of a stolen culture, 2014 (oil on canvas)
by Ng'andwe Mwaba
Having abandoned oil on canvas for the greater part of his eight year career amidst continued gossip that he has no style of his own and constantly imitates famous older brother and mentor Stary, the 31-year-old took to monochromatic figure drawings in pen and ink, concentrating on the money spinning aspect of portraiture.

Gallery-goers should expect to see a few colourful oils on canvas with complex metaphorical references that suggest a sense of maturity in the artist, hinting towards deep thinking. A good example would be the piece Norms of A Stolen Culture.

“The woman I consider to be modern, but African. She is leaning on a calabash with water that has been spilled, but you can see there is some of it remaining. The spillage represents hope, there is still hope but all she sees is what has been spilt,” explained Ng’andwe in an interview early this week.

Citing the “Brazilian Hair” extensions popular among trendy African women, he suggests Africans are lost and their culture is so contaminated it is almost impossible to separate what is truly indiginous and what is borrowed from the west.

A Trench of Ambitions, 2014 (mixed media)
by Ng'andwe Mwaba
“When water spills on sand or soil it creates mud and it is very difficult to separate the two. Just like our culture, it is contaminated so you can see the woman is looking at what has been spilled and she is playing with the mud but cannot see the little water remaining in the calabash,” he added.

He thinks it was a shame that nowadays customs such as initiation ceremonies and traditional marriage counselling were taught on the basis of commercial consultation. Previously the duty of elderly aunts or uncles, coaches like the Bemba  Bana Chimbusa who tutor brides and Bashi Bukombe who instruct grooms have turned matrimonial guidance into a very lucrative trade.
Nevertheless, according to Ng’andwe the journey to the completion of the exhibition has been a search of his inner self and that he had been living in isolation, in a tent within the Lusaka show grounds for three months in preparation for the event.

The energy for the show however, emanated from the Insaka International Artists Workshop that he attended in Livingstone last year, an event he described as a stepping stone to freedom.
“Before I went there (Insaka) I was confined, I had a one track mind mostly because of commercial purposes, I knew I could always sell a portrait and make some money. But in Livingstone we were in the bush and we deliberately had no resources just to test our creativity I made a lot of experiments, it was an initiation into freedom,” said Ng’andwe.

The artist will be showcasing a minimum of 20 works of various sizes and promises there will be something for everyone’s budget, the show is expected to run for two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Visual Arts Council of Zambia (VAC) is showing recent works by various Zambian artists at the Henry Tayali Gallery in the Lusaka show grounds throughout the period of the ongoing Agriculture and Commercial Show.

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