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Thursday, 27 November 2014

Mwakalombe’s colourful swirls and twirls inspired by faith

By Andrew Mulenga

Although he often restricts figures to elongated egg-shapes most likely to lay emphasis on his powerful colour contrasts, it has somehow made Mansa-based artist Victor Mwakalombe’s paintings stand out whenever he travels to the capital to exhibit.
Employing a flatness of perspective, with intentional emphasis on a two-dimensional presentation of the picture surface, he makes no attempt at all to create an imagined depth of field.

Typical is Stations of the Cross inspired by his Catholic faith it references a ceremony conducted by Lutherans, Anglicans and Catholics in memory of the suffering of Jesus of Nazareth in his last hours. The painting shows a congregation in a procession, the multitude is sandwiched by two planes an earthy ground and clear blue sky that help impose a sense of movement.

Station of the Cross, acrylic on canvas,
 by Victor Mwakalombe
“I’m a Catholic Christian and therefore, I’m attached to some significant Christian events like Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Palm Sunday, and Easter Sunday, but apart from this I like to depict women and children in my paintings,” explains the family man who turned 41 two weeks ago.

Works such as Mother Zambia show him pushing his inventiveness further where he depicts a group of figures that appear to be women at a water source, some drawing it and others carrying it away in vessels on their heads. Only a closer look will show the hidden map of Zambia embedded right in the centre of the painting. The work reflects the country’s abundance of natural resources, complimented by the title, it bestows a motherly role on the land, suggesting how she is able to provide for her children.

 As much as he can go the realistic route especially when working on commissions, like many abstract painters, he maintains he can best express himself in what he describes as his “flowing style”.

Mwakalombe however complains that as much as he is inspired, it is unfortunate that he has to travel to Lusaka for his art materials, the 12 hour bus journey (one way) is not only tedious, but even when he gets to the capital at times he will not find everything he is looking for, particularly certain types of the acrylic paint that he favours, it so happens that at times the only two stockists are out of certain shades. But the challenge does not end there.

Mother Zambia, acrylic on canvas,
by Victor Mwakalombe
“There is a serious lack of art market and  materials in Mansa except for the few members of the American Peace Corps community who ask for work on commission  after a  couple of months and sometimes after years,” he says echoing the outcries made by fellow artists Samuel Mabuku and Aubrey Chali who are also based in Mansa.

This brings to light the fact that there is a small band of very inventive artists in Mansa, even as a rural town, it appears to be the most active small town outside Lusaka which is probably the reason Mwakalombe believes as a provincial headquarters it deserves an art gallery.    
But as much as the artists in Mansa are all fired up and motivated, living on their paintings alone would mean becoming penniless so they have to make ends meet through other efforts.

“I have a great deal of passion but unfortunately I can be destitute if I entirely depend on art hear in Mansa unless in Lusaka, so for survival’s sake I decided to run a small art studio called Diversity Expressions with my  friend Collins Kangwa. The Studio deals with authorized pressed car number plates, T-shirt Printing, date stamps and outdoor signage,” he explains also sharing where he gets the inspiration to continue working.

“First and foremost my inspiration comes from the most High God, because he is the number one artist and us as human beings simply follow. But also my works are influenced by where I live, the surrounding in which I am at that moment in time and sometimes it’s just the overwhelming feeling I get to express myself on the canvas through the intensity of colours.”

Among his fellow artists, he is inspired by Mulenga Chafilwa, Chulu Zenzele, the Yombwes of Livingstone, the late Bright Chishimba, Poto Kabwe, Style Kunda, Stary Mwaba, Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Mwakalombe is a self-taught artist but after completing school at Kawambwa Boy’s Technical Secondary School in 1994 he has consistently attended workshops and exhibitions in Lusaka, Livingstone and Mansa and has also served as the elected provincial secretary of the now defunct Luapula Visual arts Council, this year he participated in the Golden Jubilee National Art Exhibition at the newly opened Livingstone Art Gallery where a few of his works are still on display for purchase. 

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