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).