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Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Livingstone art gallery, two years down the line…

By Andrew Mulenga

Two years down the line the Livingstone Gallery, the first purpose built contemporary art space in Zambia, nestled in the country’s tourist capital appears to be subsisting albeit in a happy-go-lucky way.

Much has been said about the quality of the building itself and the hurried manner in which it was constructed, but the gallery’s manager Chansa Chishimba a locally respected multidisciplinary artist hints that all is well as he gives insights on how the space has been getting by since its opening.

Livingstone gallery manager Chansa Chishimba
“Always when you have a new born baby the family members are apprehensive and ask, will the child grow or not? but anyway slowly things have started improving. Of late we have been receiving calls for bookings from as far as the Copper belt and Europe where people will write you an e-mail in advance requesting a tour booking for a specific day,” says the 60-year-old artist well-known for a technique in which he processes traditional tree bark fiber cloths for his art work.

“On average daily visits to the gallery are quite sporadic, there are times when we have no visitor at all. Then all of a sudden we have a bus of over 60 people. So we tally, I can say we receive a minimum of 8 people a day, we record, the statistics, they are important because the National Arts Council (NAC) and the ministry of tourism want to know these things,” he explains.

The gallery's dirt track off Sichango Road lends
a Safari feel to the art space
He indicates that during this data collection the gallery identifies what type of visitors are coming through whether male, female, adult, children or foreign. Chansa says the money too is not coming as fast as he wished, but at least the gallery is able to sell one piece every two months.

“Sales are very unpredictable, you can’t tell whether you are going to sell this month or not, but since the opening in 2014 I remember the first exhibition we sold K41,070 (approx. US$ 3,700) that exhibition, we mounted a second show and sold 51,150 (approx. US$ 4,700) – on average a show lasts 3 months he says.

Since the gallery opened it has only had three themed shows with what he called fillers in between, exhibitions such as the one currently showing which is basically a mixture of work in various media by artists at different career level from all corners of the country are hung and placed randomly.

The display is usually a mixture of work in various
media by artists at different career level from all
corners of the country
“When we mounted a filler in April this year we did not sell anything, but in May we sold K11,700 this was for about five pieces (five works of art) so we hope June being a peak period for the tourists who come here for their summer holidays, we might be able to realize some sales,” he explains.

He points out that the gallery is able to remain operational because of the direct support from NAC and the Ministry of tourism through the District Cultural Office who cater for the monthly volunteer staff wages, and utilities.

“Every month we have something to pay for electricity, water that one is budgeted for, government has put it as a priority. We are not complaining I’m paid under NAC. Whoever comes to sit here NAC will find something to ‘wash their hands’ (pay wages) according to the individual if the can agree to the terms. Already Kate Naluyele and Gill Zulu as my assistants they have come with new ideas and I think things will start moving,” he says.

Abraham Banda, Chiato, Acrylic on canvas  
Naluyele is the current Visual Arts Council (VAC) national vice chairperson, who has relocated from Lusaka and Zulu runs Highlands Creative Academy while she is also the Visual Arts Development manager for Elijah International Zambia, both are working primarily as volunteers although they receive a stipend from NAC.

Meanwhile, Zulu who comes to the gallery once a week also echoed that the space is gaining ground with regards group tours.

Isaac Kalambata, Burning Desire, Acrylic on canvas
“What we really have to do is intensify our marketing strategy. We need to make the gallery an active, not passive experience. We hope to have frequent entertainment activities where creatives come for social events on a regular basis and we are trying to get the venue promoted to the broader community, for the Chinese exhibition project a shelter was built for artists to work in so we can also continue using that,” says Zulu.

The gallery is on Sichango Road, behind Livingstone Showgrounds, you cannot miss the elaborate roadside sign post which features two giraffe sculptures holding up a wooden plaque that reads “art gallery”.

Nevertheless, although there is still a lot of room for improvement with the Livingstone Gallery, one can safely say Zambia finally has the semblance of a national art gallery, but as to whether the space will take up the responsibility of challenging the aesthetic, historical, cultural and socio-political implications of art in Zambia or play the role of an elevated curio shop this is yet to be seen.

Chishimba Chansa is a sculptor, ceramist, textile designer and painter who holds diplomas from the Nkwame Nkrumah Teachers College in Kabwe and Evelyn Hone College of applied Arts and Commerce in Lusaka and the HDK School of Design and Crafts at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Zambian artists gain ground in Barclays L’Atelier competition

By Andrew Mulenga

Participating in the prestigious Barclays L’Atelier art competition for only the second time since the South African founded awards were opened up to other African countries namely Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, Mauritius and the Seychelles; Zambian artists appear to be gaining ground and getting the much needed international exposure that is important to upcoming creatives.

A happy scary in the cornfield, 2016 charcoal 81 x 108 cm
by Nelson Musa Mwengwe, ABSA Gallery, Johannesburg
Although none of the seven Zambians made it into the final 10 to walk away with the top 5 awards that included a R260,000 cash prize and international artists residencies in Paris and New York, they did make it into the correspondingly competitive top 100 and have their work on display at the ABSA gallery in Johannesburg.

Comprising a gender balanced list, Nukwase Tembo, Kelvin Zangata, Mulenga Mulenga, Caleb Chisha, Sarah Chule, Mwamba Chikwemba and Aaron Mulenga are the artists that made it through.

All the artists exhibited exceptionally strong pieces, and it was interesting to see viewers gather around the works of the Zambians with enthusiasm as they were on display to be viewed by more than 800 onlookers during the awards gala event held on 13 July. The work by the Zambians included paintings, drawings and mixed media installations addressed universal stories that did not just reflect an image of Zambian society. Their themes addressed issues surrounding cultural identity, hope, death, childhood, employment, poverty, fashion and faith.

It must be noted that for the Zambians to even get this far was no mean achievement because they were pitted against competitors who have all had a university education in art from respected institutions across the continent who may be more adept in accompanying their displayed work with elaborately written artiststs statements, something which is often a challenge among Zambian artists due to a less developed academic art scene. The Barclays L’Atelier art competition is ran annually in conjunction with our partner, the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA).

Monday, 20 June 2016

Upbraiding wigs and weaves



By Andrew Mulenga

There seems to be something happening among a handful of artists on the Zambian art scene. An all-female, revolution-like conscious movement albeit one without a transcribed manifesto. Working separately two young artists have taken it upon themselves to defend their femininity by questioning what they observe as force-fed, western standards of beauty.

Status Quo, 2016, collage by Nukwase Tembo
Through their work, Nukwase Tembo and Mulenga Mulenga, 28 and 29 years-old respectively are championing an interrogation of generally accepted notions of attractiveness, a campaign that they hope will remind Zambian, and by extension, African women to regain confidence in their unsullied beauty. A beauty they believe, whose aesthetic has been hijacked as it is now dictated by the modelling industry and mass media.

Both Lusaka-based artists recently had their work selected for the finals of the 2016 Barclays L'Atelier, one of Africa’s most prestigious art competitions that targets visual artists aged 21 to 35. It is Tembo’s piece entitled Status Quo that got her nominated, whereas Mulenga had a double entry with her works entitled Self-portrait and Possessed by disguise respectively.

“My work is addressing the status quo that the majority of black women follow in order for us to fit into the standards of beauty that have been set for us. We have been taught to disregard many things that make us who we are -- beautiful black women -- and have instead taken up the Eurocentric idea of what beauty should be. I feel that this has contributed to the escalating amount of self-hate that is being practiced by the black race,” explains Tembo. 

The focal point of her piece is a slender catwalk model strutting on stage in front of an audience, but what is peculiar about her is the fact that while she is black, she appears to have removed her head, carrying it in one hand replacing it with a sniggering white one, the audience too – individually cut characters from magazines – also appears all white.

Tembo’s image subtly camouflages several issues, on the one hand it can be read as a critique of the international fashion and modelling industries along with their consumers and audiences that often demand certain skin, body, and racial types and on the other hand it can also be interpreted as a parody of predominantly Eurocentric social behaviours that have steadily been globalized through mass media.

Just like Tembo, Mulenga argues that her current body of work questions and investigates female identity and heritage in post-colonial Zambia while exploring her personal interactions with social aesthetics. Her work Possessed by disguise addresses similar issues as that of Tembo’s. It is a mixed media painting that depicts a masked figure as its main focal point and the character has actual hair extensions meticulously woven into the canvas. With this work Mulenga alludes to notions of lost identity and a devotion to superficial beauty.    
     
Possessed by disguise, 2016 mixed media by Mulenga Mulenga
“The worst form of deception is that of self, black women should reclaim their identity. This work portrays masks and wigs as metaphors for the deception of cultural identity. Black hair is camouflaged in the Zambian society today,” argues Mulenga. “By trying to fit in with mainstream western society, three quarters of (Zambian) women are covered in hair extensions. We have become shadows of a forgotten culture without valuing our rich history of hair grooming”
She says she draws inspiration from her personal experience as an African woman with natural hair, living in a society which castigates its own identity and is influenced by predominantly Euro-Americans and Asian standards of beauty. 

“I’m questioning what makes us black women forgo nurturing our hair to build an archive of identity and yet go on exposing ourselves to synthetic and western styled hair.  How can I wear my black curly hair and be accepted as a modern and informed woman without being entangled by wigs? What happened to narratives of black hair nurturing and patterns,” she explains.

Her painting entitled Self Portrait directly addresses these observations. It features a young lady with a 1970s style afro with a comb sticking out of it, the hair is in fact real human hair collected by the artist, hanging from the subject’s hand are, synthetic hair extensions. The piece continues the conversation that encourages the rejection of synthetic and human hair extensions, the woman in the painting can be regarded as someone discarding these wigs opting for her own natural hair. Mulenga clearly thought outside the box on this work and shares its production process.

Self portrait, 2016 mixed media by Mulenga Mulenga
“I talked to the owner of a hair salon to keep the hair that they cut from the women who visit; the process began in August 2015. To me the material (black hair) is playing an important role, I ask what it means to be carriers of this hair. I am interested in the history that it holds. My research on this topic is still going on, this work is just the beginning of many more to come,” explains Mulenga.

Mulenga and Tembo both raise very interesting arguments as they question generally accepted standards of beauty among African women and in broader terms question the issue of cultural hegemony, the philosophical concept that argues that a culture, with an authoritarian standing, can exert disproportionate influence manipulating how other cultures ought to behave, what they are supposed to consume, what they are supposed to believe, how they are supposed to run their economies and how they are supposed to govern themselves.

Both skin bleaching and hair modification remains popular among African women, who may not fully be aware that they support a multi-million dollar industry. In fact in 2015a popular Afrocentric beauty magazine Madam Noir reported that Africa was the prime market for Indian hair and was estimated to be worth $6 billion a year and rising. However, as much as the blame of influence with regards the straight hair look is heaped on Euro-America, much of the human hair supplied as extensions does not come from Europe or the United States. Perhaps the ever popular Brazilian and Indian soap operas that are household names in Zambia may have a role in the influence to a certain degree.

A brief visit around Lusaka’s Northmead market, one of the Zambian capitals most popular beauty bazaars featuring dozens of small hair salons will reveal that Peruvian, Brazilian and Indian hair are the most prized hair extensions. A 12 inch ball of 100% Indian Virgin Remy hair for instance can cost up to K1, 500 (one thousand five hundred kwacha) and depending on the hairstyle, trendy Lusaka ladies are known to splurge on up to three balls per head, which can amount to K4, 500 (four thousand five hundred kwacha), just over US$ 400 and way over the Zambian general workers’ (category one) minimum wage for receptionists and clerks which is about K1, 100 (one thousand one hundred). 

Notwithstanding, many within this workers category are known to don these expensive wigs which also raises concerns as to whether there is now a culture in Zambia that encourages ladies to live beyond their means in order to either keep up appearances, boost self-esteem or indeed look attractive to the opposite sex. Nevertheless the issue of why ladies prefer to wear hair that once belonged to someone else without batting an eyelid over whom the hair was extracted from is perhaps a debate for the hair salons and one that must perhaps be avoided a male writer commenting from a comfortable point of ignorance.  

All the same it would be exciting if Tembo and Mulenga could perhaps collaborate and work on a full scale exhibition with more works that argue their worthy cause.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Simbule put to rest

By Andrew Mulenga

Like many deaths, that of artist Christopher Simbule overwhelms the mind with so many unanswered questions, speculations and deep reflections on the haunting futility of life.

Christopher Simbule during the
Foxdale Art Day in March 2016
On the morning of Thursday 26 March 2016 his dead body was discovered within the Lusaka show grounds not far from his favourite watering hole and temporal dwelling. As much as it may seem inconsiderate to speak judgmentally of the dead, anyone -- such as this columnist -- who knew Simbule personally may attest that in his last days he appeared increasingly troubled to the point of taking up the same alternate lodging at a popular club where he also served as a provisional caretaker in exchange for artistic studio space.  

With the above-mentioned there is no surprise that in the couple of days before his burial at Mutumbi Memorial Park on Saturday 28 March, much has been said within the visual arts fraternity. In whispers at the funeral artists found themselves questioning their personal lifestyles, general welfare and comradeship. They found themselves questioning their individual backgrounds and debating among themselves how much they know about one another, do they have relatives nearby in case something happens to them during long, late nights in their common studio spaces -- for those who choose to burn the midnight oil as it were.
One Zambia One Nation (2015), oil and acrylic
on canvas by Christopher Simbule
Furthermore Simbule’s death raises more universal questions; as individual members of humankind are we loved more when we die? Is personal welfare totally one’s own business whereby if one does not shout out for a helping hand even when at times it is plain for all to see that one is in need of support? Surely why should one’s friends, relatives, employers or professional bodies purchase a costly coffin, provide hired transport, funeral services and several days catering – as is the accepted custom in most of Zambia’s cultures -- when they probably cared less what one was eating when she or he walked among them?

Nevertheless, in Simbule the Zambian art scene loses a multi-media artist who was a worthy sculptor preferring to work with found objects and papier-mâché, but depending on his mood or drive, he would often switch to painting. Moreover, as one of his key artistic legacies Simbule leaves his own interpretation of city life among a host of Zambian painters. Whereas everyday township panoramas and bustling market scenes have long dominated the cityscape genre, his works brought an excitingly refreshing touch to it.

The Club (2013), oil on board by Christopher Simbule
His paintings had a unique style of composition in which he would inventively split paintings in half often employing multi-point, linear perspective, habitually casting tonal gradation to the wind. His cityscapes often perpetuated a positive extrapolation of African city life.

He will also be remembered for being very active during group efforts and collaborative undertakings such as helping coordinate the 2015 Journey in History project, a UNICEF funded project that involved a painting that stretches more than K1.5 metres and was created by around 2,000 children from all 10 provinces of Zambia. Similarly, in March this year he was the key coordinator of the Foxdale Court Art Day in Lusaka where he was in charge of the contemporary art display by various Zambian artists as well overseeing the Kid’s Corner where he ran creative activities for children.

He possessed a solid art foundation starting in Zimbabwe at Founders High School which laid a very strong emphasis on art education at the time it afforded him the opportunity of displaying work at the Mthwakazi Youth Centre. He later attended the Mzilikazi Art Centre in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe where he attained a two-year Fine Art Diploma in 1992; the same art centre that laid the ground for the late Zambian virtuoso Henry Tayali, after college Simbule exhibited at both the Bulawayo and Harare National galleries.

Untitled cityscape (2015) oil and acrylic on
board by Christopher Simbule
Simbule was born in Mbala in 1971 to a Zambian father and Zimbabwean mother, Simbule and his siblings moved to Zimbabwe when his parents divorced, but his stay in Zimbabwe would end up being a good turn in terms of his artistic career.

After college he decided to return to Zambia to see his father, by now a retired Zambia Air Force pilot flying local routes with Zambia Airways. In 1993 it is his father that took him to the Lusaka show grounds to show him where to meet other artists this would be his first time at the Henry Tayali Gallery.

Here he would also meet senior artists during the early days of the Visual Arts Council (VAC), legends such as Martin Phiri, Godfrey Setti, Eddie Mubanga and Lutanda Mwamba, all deceased. He immediately enrolled with Imiti Ikula Empanga (loosely translated as today’s seedlings are tomorrows forests), the council’s youth programme.

A year later, his father passed away and the artist found himself in a state of disorientation, always traveling from Zambia to Zimbabwe, although he had never gone back since 2000 until the time of his death.

Besides his artistic legacy, he will be remembered as a loving father and affectionate husband; he leaves behind a wife and four young daughters. Dependant on art alone, one can only imagine how he managed to take care of huge family obligations, seeing there remains no support structures for artists. Artists’ welfare as suggested earlier still remains a thorny issue, how they survive in between the sale of paintings remains obscure. To view or purchase Simbule’s work visit the Henry Tayali Gallery in the Lusaka show grounds, a charming example of his cityscapes can also be found in form of a large mural in the a passage way at Foxdale Court. Among his close friends the ever jovial artist will be remembered for his favourite catchphrase “Nice one biggie”.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

An innocent measure of skill

By Andrew Mulenga

When Gilbert Nsama became a member of the Visual Arts Council of Zambia (VAC) in 2010, he was half way through a three-year Aircraft Maintenance Engineering studies at the Zambia Air Service Training Institute (ZASTI) in Lusaka.
Nsama is trained in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering
but cannot find a job in aviation
“At first it was my cousin Martin Chanda – a Swiss-based Zambian artist -- who connected me to a few artists in Lusaka and also dad encouraged me and showed me the Henry Tayali gallery, but I think interacting with other artists at the Arts Academy Without Walls (AAWW) is what is really helping me develop and find myself as an arts,” says the Luanshya-born artist who has also been coached by painter, Caleb Chisha as well as sculptors Nsofwa Bowa and Charles Chambata.

The ambitious young aircraft engineer was convinced that being a member of VAC would be a nice by-the-way activity when he is not busy fixing or maintaining aircraft, but six years down the line, the 29-year-old has been unsuccessful in finding a job within the aviation industry and has taken up the occupation of a full-time artist, a prospect which is not without its own challenges.
Proud African Lady, 2016, oil on
canvas, by Gilbert Nsama
“I haven’t thrown my qualifications away; art is keeping me occupied until something comes up in aviation. But I won’t stop art. Zambia has no national airline so I’ve been applying to foreign airlines and private companies locally. I even tried the Zambia Air Force (ZAF) during the last recruitment but the names were not released, I think they will be released after elections, still I don’t know if my name will be there,” he explains. Ironically, he attended ZASTI on a government bursary even though he is not able to find a job.

He works as both a painter and a sculptor choosing oil for his canvases and a variety of soft and hard woods for his carvings although he appears to be struggling for collectors or benefactors, in fact he was only able to make his first sale in March this year during The Foxdale Court Arts Day in Lusaka’s Roma suburb. The piece was one of his signature carvings of ornamental wooden shoes, shoes which are often the joke among his peers at the AAWW. Fortunately, he remains resilient and brushes the taunting off for what it really is, mockery.

African Beauty, 2016, jacaranda wood,
by Gilbert Nsama
While a close analysis of Nsama’s work does indicate that he possesses a notable degree of proficiency as a painter -- which manifests in his admirable colour usage and realistic touch -- the work appears rather disoriented when it comes to subject matter. The depiction of little children taking a bath is pretty much an exhausted cliché that has perhaps been used too many times; similarly he is in the habit of wrapping his subject matter in the texture of a brick wall giving the viewer the feeling of peeping through a hole in the wall to gaze upon them. As much as one may not want to encroach upon the artist’s style, something does not seem to add up, is he doing this out of impulse or is he showing the viewer that he has the ability to paint the exact likeness of a brick wall in several of his works with considerable ease.

Also, his portraits of women with titles such as Proud African Lady and Happy Masai all seem too credulous, calling to mind airport art or the Sunday-market crafts genre popular among foreign tourists on a constrained budget. Similarly his sculptures also appear to be adrift, again despite the fact that he does exhibit competence in his preferred media of soft and hard woods. With titles such as True African Beauty and The Beauty within Me in Jacaranda and Rosewood respectively, the works exude a degree of shallowness. What is the artist really saying, what is he sharing with the viewer, is he conjuring seemingly redundant notions of ‘African beauty’ that existed in a time long before his own? If so, to what objective?

Sunday Bathing, 2016, oil on canvas
by Gilbert Nsama
It is one thing for an artist from Northern Zambia to create portraits inspired by women from the Masai of East Africa or the Dinka of Sudan, but did he really sit down and ask himself why his work is being informed by these tribes from distant lands, in countries where he has never set foot.

Of course it may be accepted and possibly even understood when an artist categorized as a self-taught artist is creating work on assumed impulse without adding any conjectural or indeed theoretical values to it. But again it raises questions towards the sincerity of the more experienced and exposed artists whom surround him and by extension every other Zambian artist. Do they interrogate their own work deep enough before they have it displayed? Even by critiquing it in their small cliques prior to hanging it on exhibition walls.

It is high time that Zambian artists stopped being dishonest with one another, if they see a questionable piece in a colleague’s studio space, they should ask why she or he chose a particular theme, what is its relevance within a particular social, political, environmental or cultural framework, Zambian or other.

Notwithstanding, Nsama is just one of many young artists with great promise that is trying to find a foothold within an art context that scarcely puts critical thinking or academic arts qualifications at the fore of practice. For now, what Nsama is providing is an honest, yet refreshing measure of creativity, optimistically the Zambian art scene is yet to see the best of him; surely he will find his way, hopefully before he returns to his professional career as an aircraft engineer.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Giving it up for art

By Andrew Mulenga

As a career, art  is generally considered a nonstarter, even in countries that have well organized support structures such as effective cultural policies, sound art education systems, commercial art galleries and art museums, so there is no surprise when you introduce yourself as an artist and the first question is  “yes of course, but do you have a real job?”.

Chikwemba with one of her large format paintings
Actually, Mwamba Chikwemba, a 22-year-old from Lusaka’s Matero Township who happens to be a graduate of the National Institute of Public Administration, decided to quit working for a leading international chain store after only one year, opting for a full time occupation as an artist.

“After completing my diploma in public administration, I found a job and worked for the whole of 2015, but I made up my mind and decided that I want to dedicate my whole 2016 to producing art and just see how it goes,” says the painter, who has coupled this challenge of self-employment by being one of the few female artists in a male dominated Zambian art scene.

Her paintings stand out for their enormous canvases if not for their charming subject matter which often features closely cropped portraits of young women whose enchanting smiles are buffered only by Chikwemba’s kaleidoscopic palette. In addition her brushstrokes are nonchalant lending a jovial playfulness to the work.

Afro sisters I acrylic on canvas
by Mwamba Chikwemba
“I like earrings and jewellery and this reflects in my work, when someone buys my work they actually buy a piece of me but also if you see most of my works the subjects all have Afro, natural hair styles. I want to see the old hair styles returning, like plating of hair or braiding not this Indian and Brazilian hair. I want to question why did we stop our own styles and why are we buying Brazilian hair”, she explains.

Perhaps the young artist is enjoying a spot of beginners luck or she just has a gift that puts her a cut above others, her work not only caught the eye of a collector who purchased two of her paintings from the Henry Tayali Gallery in Lusaka at the beginning of the year, but also those of the judges in charge of local selection for the Barclays L'Atelier art competition, a prestigious international art competition for promising young artists across the African continent. She submitted a work entitled D.O.D or simply Date of Death. The work is a shift from her signature portraits; it depicts the feet of a corpse and references the tags that are placed on a dead person indicating their date of death for identification in the mortuary.

Afro sisters II acrylic on canvas
by Mwamba Chikwemba
In March this year she also caught the attention of William Miko who curated the Visual Voices exhibition at the old German Embassy building in Lusaka. Mwamba was the youngest artist in the show which featured some of the biggest names in Zambian contemporary art, during the show her works were among the star attractions, again she was able to sell yet a few more paintings, one of them going for a handsome K18,000 (eighteen thousand kwacha). During the show she was a particular favourite of German Ambassador to Zambia Bernd Finke and the German embassy's Head of Cultural Division, Isolde Aust.

As much as she can be labelled one of the most promising young artists, her artistic journey did not entirely have a smooth beginning.

“It’s been a journey, because my mother was not very supportive of my art, especially when I was in primary school she used to tell me to stop because she thought it as a waste of time, but my dad was very supportive. But in January this year, I sold my first painting, and when I gave my mother some money I told her that it was from the same art that she did not want me to do,” she explains.

Her mother has clearly changed her mind towards her daughter’s decision to take up art; she was also in attendance during the Visual Voices exhibition. Chikwemba also indicates she may not be the only art is in the family.

Afro Sisters III acrylic on canvas by
Mwamba Chikwemba
“I discovered I had an artistic ability when I was in grade 5, whenever my teacher needed a drawing on the board she used to call me to draw it. I am the first born in a family of 5, my brother used to draw and we used to compete but he stopped and I continued, but I have a little sister in grade one she likes drawing a lot, I think she is also following my way, I hope so,” she says.

Although she is primarily self-taught, she has undergone informal mentorship under a number of senior and mid-career artists within Lusaka that have helped boost her confidence. 

“I used to do art at school from grade 8 to grade 12 in 2012 when I just completed I came here to the Visual Arts Council and became a member, then I met Mr Zenzele Chulu and asked him where I could find art lessons, he volunteered and used to come on Saturday for a small fee,” she recalls.

After Chulu’s classes she continued practicing from home, and later met David Makala who invited her to his place in Chilenje for art lessons and Caleb Chisha also instructed her on how to blend and shade, she says he was very instrumental in teaching her how to create portraits because previously she would only paint flowers and still life.

D.O.D acrylic on canvas by
Mwamba Chikwemba

 
Chikwemba only started exhibiting in 2014; she participated in the Lusaka 100 exhibition at Manda Hill Mall as well as the Independence Day exhibition. Currently she remains highly motivated and claims she is in it for the long run, she also hopes to raise funds that will help see her into a university in Zambia or abroad.

“I don’t intend to stop being an artist just because my parents disagreed or in future when I get married my husband tells me to stop, I won’t. Like I said I was not fully supported at first as an artist, so I know these challenges,” says Chikwemba.

Her works can be viewed from the Henry Tayali Gallery in the Lusaka show grounds as well as Twangale Park off Kafue road in Lusaka.