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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Talented dropout torn between art and piecework

By Andrew Mulenga

Life is like a candle, colour pencil
on paper by William Kazoka
In 2008, while he was in grade 11 at the age of 18, William Kazoka was forced to drop out of school because his unemployed parents were no longer able to fund his education.
Passionate about art, and possessing prodigious talent, he sought refuge in making drawings as a form of escapism whenever he was not busy doing every manner of odd job that would come his way.

Professional art materials do not come cheap, so the Lilanda-based youth would rely on coloured pencils, ball-point pens and salvaged A4-size paper.
“My parents used to be supportive, but not anymore, art started out as a hobby to me but when I turned 15 people used to tell me I was very good and kept encouraging me. Whenever my dad saw me drawing he was always upset and told me to concentrate on my school, even though I had to drop out”, he says

Detail of an unfinished Pieta, after
Michelangelo by William Kazoka
“I stopped drawing for a while, but then a friend of mine, Hendrix told me of the Arts Academy Without Walls (AAWW) here in the Lusaka show grounds last year so that’s when I started coming here to get inspired, there are a lot of young artists here that are helpful some of them even help me with materials whenever they have enough to spare, but even for them it is not easy”.

He has not been able to take up permanent space at the AAWW because some of the more experienced artists have also occupied the space for a longer period have been asking the upcoming ones for rentals that should be paid three months in advance. This is a serious challenge because most young artists are unable to pay the K50 membership fee to the Visual Arts Council (VAC) itself.

“Also it’s not easy for me to continue drawing or painting, I always have to find some piecework so I do a lot of walking around. I would be very happy to go back to school, even in grade 11 where I left, I don’t mind, I just do not have the support,” says the artist who turns 25 this year.

African woman, colour pencil
on paper by William Kazoka
He is the first born among 5, and sadly only two of his younger siblings are in school because his parents challenging financial situation does not appear to be improving.
But then again his depressing situation does not reflect in his work, which occasionally contains a vibrant outburst of colours. When not imitating European masters like Michelangelo, his subject matter varies from portraits of African women to ethereal concepts; one such example is a colour drawing he calls Life Is like a Candle.

The work evokes a very deep mind's eye, revealing in the artist’s talent an air of mysterious genius, certainly an outstanding piece of work, for someone who has never studied art professionally, let alone undergone any form of apprenticeship Kazoka shows great promise.

Unfortunately, there is no telling the fate of this young talent whose future appears to be enveloped in uncertainty. Although he remains hopeful of one day returning to school to complete grade 12 and subsequently take up art at the Evelyn Hone College, for now his destiny remains wedged in the daily routine of searching for any available odd job, relegating his art practice and outstanding gift to indecision. 

Upcoming artist William Kazoka from
Lusaka's Lilanda township

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