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Monday, 2 February 2015

Zambia’s longest painting on display in the Lusaka show grounds

By Andrew Mulenga

Dubbed Zambia’s longest painting, the Journey in History project a canvas of images that stretches more than K1.5 metres has been on display in the Lusaka showground’s since last week Thursday.

The painting that stretches over K1.5 kilometres 
is on display at the Lusaka Showgrounds
Starting from the Great East Road entrance opposite Manda Hill, attached to trees and buildings the painting meanders round several streets, the main arena and finally ends in the Henry Tayali Gallery.

The UNICEF funded project was created by around 2,000 children from all 10 provinces of Zambia for the celebration of the country’s Golden Jubilee as well as the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

“The more than one kilometre painting reflects the work of children to illustrate Zambia’s history since gaining independence in 1964 and includes paintings on politics, rights issues, sports, farming, environment, and other scenes,”  reads a statement from UNICEF.

Thawanda Chiluba, a grade 11 pupil at Kabulonga Boys High School 
with his contribution to the painting

The children were aided by a team from the Visual Arts Council that toured the country and gave guidance with regards themes and technique. Perhaps the painting may not be a well sequenced portrayal of Zambia’s history as the projects title may suggest, however, it is an exciting insight into the way the children of Zambia are able to perceive, interpret and portray history of their country.

Inutu Kawesha, 5 of Nkhwazi School in Lusaka 
in front of her painting at the Henry Tayali Gallery
The painting evokes forgotten and perhaps forbidden aspects of Zambia’s history like the Mushala rebellion and the so called Lenshina uprising. One may argue that the sheer mention of these Zambian individuals was almost treasonable at one time. The former being the commander of a rebel group active in North Western province and the latter being a Christian labelled a cult leader, believed to be a prophet in the Northern Province. 

Nevertheless the children have brushed the negativity aside and have innocently made renditions of the two. Such is the innocence of children; in one image a child depicts a bus from the United Bus Company of Zambia (UBZ), but interestingly the bus appears to be a latest model with the distinctive, large side mirrors of either a Scania Marco polo or a Higer bus of course these are the buses that the child knows but in truth, the buses of that era were either the Dubravas imported from the Soviet Union or locally assembled TATA or Renault, the kind that would take up to two days just to journey from Lusaka to Chipata and passengers had to carry pot-loads of food to eat on the way.

One of the most prominent among the recurring themes is elections, although this year’s polls had been characterised by bitter rivalry, in most of the images that reflect voting, the children appear to register their love for peace and unity depicting rival parties shaking hands, an innocent reminder from the children on the importance of unity at least on their behalf.
It may not be easy to measure the success of the Journey in History as a project, but one thing is for sure, the painting is entertaining and throughout the week families, individuals and schools have been trekking to the showgrounds to have a look at the spectacle. 

A portrait of Zambian rapper Macky 2 on the cover of Speak Out Magazine

Modern take on a UBZ coach

Elections feature prominently in the painting

A young artists tribute to national unity and democracy 

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