Search This Blog

Monday, 25 May 2015

Adam Mwansa is not all pen and ink

By Andrew Mulenga

In case you have not been to see Due to Popular Demand, the ongoing two-man exhibition by visual arts luminaries Lawrence Yombwe of Livingstone and Adam Mwansa of Luanshya at the Zebra Crossings Café, Ababa House, Lusaka, the display is still on until 3 June.

Morning light 1, Acrylic on canvas 48Cm X 40Cm
Of course the two need no introduction for followers of the Zambian art scene, but the Luanshya-based pen and ink virtuoso Mwansa has been a bit of a rarity on the Lusaka Art scene and it is safe to say that this is perhaps the first time he has had so much work in a single show. What is exciting about his latest body of work is that, instead of his trademark black and white pen and ink drawings, he has outdone himself, surprised his collectors and churned out a whole array of delicate watercolours and vivid abstract acrylic on canvas paintings.

“Truly I enjoy working in pen and ink, but as it is evident in this exhibition I am quite confident working with any other medium and coming up with good results just as with pen and ink. Apart from realistic themes I sometimes venture into semi-abstract and abstract themes,” explains the 55 year old “I can work with most drawing media and many painting media, my display also includes printmaking, handmade ceramics and modelled sculpture. The surprise this year was just to announce to those who only know me as a pen and ink artist that I am actually a whole round artist who can appreciate and work with any media using any technique and style.”

The shore of lake Kariba, Watercolour on paper 17Cm X  42Cm
He explains that for him a seamless shift between a realistic and an abstract style is very possible because he understands the principles and applications for both. It is something he learned in college and through the numerous workshops he has attended
“But I constantly learn something new each time I attend an exhibition or see any new art style. Ideas learned through observation are vital when it comes to switching between art forms or techniques. The art teaching career is another factor that has made it easy for me to manage this shift, because it exposed me to the learning and understanding of various ways of making art. This knowledge is essential when presenting art lessons and coaching students,” adds the former school teacher who taught art for in Botswana government schools for 10 years, only returning to settle in his home town Luanshya  in 2006.

Ukweela, Pen drawing on paper 42Cm X 29Cm
Although returned to Luanshya, he complains that the small mining town has no art activity. He attributes this to the observation that there are not many practicing artists in the small mining town and that those who make art work in isolation, concentrating mostly on outdoor signage where they are assured of income for every piece they produce. Additionally, it is also difficult to sell art because there are very few that appreciate it, most people find it unreasonably expensive. He explains however, that the larger cities on the Copper belt are slightly more active.

“But looking at Ndola and Kitwe, one would say that the visual arts have made a mark in these two towns. Ndola can boast of the colourful roadside Twapya Art and Craft market, where apart from just enjoying viewing the art works one is afforded a chance to speak with the artists and crafts people at work. The art outlet right in the central part of Kitwe is at Chisokone market, this is another place where art sales flourish, and various arts and crafts are on display. I really get inspired each time I visit these two places,” he adds.

Despite humble beginnings, like many artists, Mwansa’s talent has presented him the chance to see the world, in 1993 he took up a studio residency at the Wimbledon School of Art, London, England and a year later he studied graphic design at The Hague in the Netherlands.

Babatoni, Pen drawing on paper 42Cm X 29Cm
“My journey in art began at Luwingu Secondary School in the Northern Province in 1978. When I won a calendar prize through the art competition, organised by Anglo-American Corporation. Since that time I realised that I was an artist. Later I took up the Art Teacher’s training at Evelyn Hone College from 1984 to 1986 and I have been practicing as an artist and a teacher of art, though at the moment I just do part time teaching,” he explains.
He reveals that he has been influenced by many artists over the years and he still gets inspired by artists young and old.
“To mention a few among those who influenced me when I was beginning I would proudly pick the following names from the Zambian scene,  Gabriel Ellison, Cynthia Zukas, Henry Tayali, my classmate and friend Godfrey Setti and Shadreck Simukanga. From the group of the old masters I could mention, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet,” he adds.

Inkampa, Pen drawing on paper 29Cm X 42Cm
Among the younger crop of artists he holds Aubrey Chali, Mulenga, David Makala, Gladys Kalichini, Mapopa Manda, Owen Shikabeta, Chifuchi Kandala and Kingsley Kapobe in high esteem, and believes they have great potential although he does have reservation of artists jumping on the abstract art band wagon just to appear trendy.

“I think it is important for every artist to fully learn and understand the approaches of drawing and creating realistic art (representational images) before moving into abstraction or the creation of non-representational images. This is so because the understanding of realistic art concepts broadens the understanding of general art concepts and abstract art has a base in realistic art. I would therefore urge the youngster artists to get enough knowledge and practice about realistic art before going into abstraction,” he explains.
He adds that the apparent boom in creativity among Zambian visual artists this year is because of the realisation of the entrepreneurial possibilities that art offers.

Luanshya-based Adam Mwansa has pulled a surprise
“In my opinion the boom on the Zambian art scene, can also be attributed to the fact that since the  inception of the ministry’s direct responsible with the arts and culture (Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture) artists have felt duty bound and have seriously taken it upon themselves to register their presence with the Government. For many it is no longer art for its own sake but a source of livelihood. Everyone is working hard; the upcoming artists are pushing for recognition while the known artists want to maintain their status and possibly move to another level,” he says.

He describes the ongoing show at Ababa House as a success and says it is not easy to put up an art exhibition with so many art works.

“But Lawrence and I managed. Further, the show opened as scheduled and there was a good crowd of viewers on the opening day. Students from Zambia Open University had a study excursion to the exhibition, the general public is still viewing and enjoying the work,” says Mwansa. 


  1. This show no doubt went in favour of Mr Yombwe in terms of sales. I was just wondering whether collectors are no longer interested in realism as seen in most of Mr Mwansa's work. Mr Yombwe's work was three to four times more pricey than his colleagues but he still prevailed. just wondering.

  2. No dear. Mwansa equally rendered some pieces in semi abstract but its just that Mwansa's buyers are out there. On his day, you would state otherwise.
    Andrew, keep up this quest as you surely feed our artistic appetite. I have been following you though I have rarely commented.

  3. I like your blog and all the information about the Global Empowers are really very great well done and keep it up.
    Crowdfunding campaign