By Andrew Mulenga
When Lombe Nsama, 37, stands next to one of his paintings, it is difficult to connect the two, the man and the work, visually they have nothing in common. The bespectacled artist has a calm demeanour, is soft spoken and often smartly dressed. His work on the other hand has a somewhat carefree style and his brush or pallet knife strokes rather, give a sense of intense immediacy.
|Reading Between The Lines, acrylics, |
40 cm x 50 cm, 2015, Lombe Nsama
Because his work has been a staple in almost every important group exhibition in Lusaka since 2006 it is easily recognizable, especially that he appears to have maintained his style as well as subject matter, which is women and children.
It is a surprising, however, how Nsama was able to maintain a continuous presence on the Lusaka art circuit seeing he was posted to the rural town of Katete in the Eastern Province as a teacher of English before he could set a foot hold in his artistic career about 10 years ago, what is worse is that administrative red tape would not allow him to teach art while there.
“It bothered me a lot not to teach art because of one individual who was so ignorant about it. But for my art production, the opportunity provided the space and time to work and from the sale of artworks I managed to attend and participate in exhibitions. Each time I came to Lusaka I made sure I bought my art supplies,” says Nsama.
|Negotiations, acrylic, 150 cm x 190 cm,|
2015, by Lombe Nsama
He is currently based in Lusaka and this time he is a teacher of art at Twin Palm Secondary School after a three year stretch in the same capacity at Matero Girls Secondary School. For just under 10 years, he has been involved with a small band of friends namely the sculptor Sydney Siansangu and the painters Paul Banda and Philip Sakala, all of whom are school teachers too. Siansangu and Banda are still practicing art professionally and showing in galleries whereas Sakala is the only one who seems to have fell of the circuit.
Nevertheless, Nsama has decided to finally step out of his comfort zone and attempt to go it alone by having his first solo exhibition entitled Pursuit that is to open at the Henry Tayali Gallery in the Lusaka show grounds on Thursday 14 May at 17:30 hours.
|Witnesses I. acrylics 30 cm x 50 cm, |
2015, Lombe Nsama
“The show gets its name from ‘pursuit’ for satisfaction. I want to be satisfied with a painting before I hang it in the gallery. I also get further satisfaction when people respond positively to my work. My friend Mulenga Chafilwa has always said no one tells us to paint what we paint or how we paint in those solitary moments in the studios. So when someone responds positively to your work it brings some satisfaction that you have communicated with the audience,” he explains.
He will have 30 paintings on display which should be quite interesting because the public has never seen more than 5 of his works in the same space at one given time. One interesting thing to imagine is how the curators of the show are going to break the probable uniformity of his colour scheme and subject matter save for a few that might break the monotony such as Reading between the Lines. A rather naughty painting, it depicts what appears to be a girl bending over to peer at a book while she has her bottom cheekily pointing at the viewer. Subject to interpretation, it evokes thoughts of an adolescent girl who perhaps is staring blankly at the pages of a book while her mind is far away probably on a boy that she likes at school.
“It’s from a common saying ‘Read between the lines’, it’s a call for wisdom and deeper understanding of issues at hand, be it politics, social and family”, explains the artist of this painting. “But you see, life is dynamic, the way I view things is not the way they are viewed by my neighbour. So I try to capture those interesting moments from my point of view. Since life is always changing, I try to show movement in my paints. The thick daubs of paint give texture to what I see.”
|Every Mountain Has A Silver Linning, acrylic, |
54 cm x 60 cm, 2015, by Lombe Nsama
Speaking of the thick daubs of paint. If you have been observing Nsama’s work over the years, you will find that he is now more generous with his application of paint often applying thick impasto. One gets the impression that he is no longer struggling with art supplies as a rural teacher but can now afford to be a bit more extravagant not only in the use of materials but also in the lavish use of colour. His colour has clearly become warmer, if not brighter, interpreting a possible peace of mind, a time of personal peace and plenty that one might suppose Zambian school teachers have been enjoying in the past few years as their fortunes vis-à-vis standards of living for some reason or another seem to have improved stratospherically.
“Psychologically and professionally I feel am now ready. I can now show the people what I am pursuing. Pursuit for satisfaction and I believe they too will be satisfied,” says Nsama of the exhibition that will be on display until 1 June.
|Nsama is all set for 14 May|
Nsama continues to show exceptional promise among his generation of Zambian painters, clearly on his way to become “the” palette knife maestro and not only does he remain valuable as an educator, but he has also proven himself proficient as an administrator.
In 2012, he was the last recipient of the Henry Tayali Award for The Best Artist in 2 Dimensions at the National Arts Council of Zambia’s Ngoma Awards. From 2010 to 2011 he was secretary of the Zambia National Arts Teachers Association, Lusaka Province. In 2011 he was Interim Vice National Chairperson for the Zambia National Visual Arts (VAC) Council and in 2012 he was Vice National Secretary, VAC. He was also involved in coordinating participants during UNICEF’s Zambia’s Longest Painting Workshop last year. He is currently upgrading himself academically and is pursuing a BA in Fine Art at the Zambia Open University.