By Andrew Mulenga
Simon Sela Kasumba (1960-2019) may not be a household name on the Zambian art scene owing to the fact that he spent much of his professional life abroad, but he unquestionably enjoyed an illustrious career as an artist and a teacher.
|Simon Sela Kasumba, 1960-2019|
Born in Chingola, Kasumba attended attended Chililabombwe Secondary School on the Copperbelt until 1980 whereafter he attended the Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka and graduated with an Art Teachers Diploma in 1985.
Between 1996 and 2009, he joined Mabel Shaw Memorial Secondary School in Kazembe, Kawambwa District in Luapula Province where he worked as a teacher of English and Head of Department of Art. He also taught at Namununga Private School in Lusaka for a year before he moved to Hillside High School in Manzini Swaziland as a substitute teacher, then on to Pelaelo Community Junior Secondary School, Makaleng, near Francistown, Botswana. He later moved to England where he ran art workshops with children at several infant, primary and secondary schools before he became Resident Artist at North Walsham High School, Norfolk. Prior to his travels abroad Kasumba also worked as textile designer in Kabwe at the Mulungushi Textiles which was one of the largest producers of Chitenge fabrics in the 1980s.
|Simon S. Kasumba - A Face with a difference, 2005|
In 2009 Kasumba moved back to Botswana with his British wife Evelyn they both taught at a private school in Kanye. In 2015 the couple settled in Livingstone where Kasumba, although battling with cancer, became very active on the Livingstone art scene and was also involved in generously tutoring younger artists.
In July 2019 he had an operation at the Livingston Hospital to remove a tumour from the bowel, a month later (Aug-Sep) he was in Lusaka at the Cancer Diseases Hospital for 8 weeks. Kasumba died on September 13th 2019.
As a couple, Simon and Evelyn were not gifted with biological offspring but adopted five children at infancy, among them nephews and nieces the oldest of whom are in their early teens. Evelyn who is still based in Livingston where she is an educator at a local school describes her late husband as a very special person who was not only a gifted artist and teacher, but was also a deeply spiritual person who loved humanity.
|Simon S. Kasumba - untitled, 2018|
These are traits that are conceivably visible in his many pen and ink drawings that are genre pieces of everyday life or a passionately painted “untitled” work that depicts two girls plaiting hair, their blissful facial expressions perhaps an ode to life.
A work titled “Old Boma” depicts a nostalgic township scene showing ordinary people going about their daily lives. The painting is sketchily executed with some of the subject’s heads appearing as mere blobs of earth coloured paint. This is in stark contrast with the “untitled” painting of the two girls that features one of the subjects wearing a meticulously detailed black and blue lace undergarment.
Apart from these two works, an earlier painting entitled “A face with a difference” portrays a face broken up into geometric shapes in the manner of cubism. Analysed together, Kasumba’s works suggest an artist who was quite versatile in his style.
To see or purchase some of Kasumba’s work, visit the Livingston National Art Gallery. His A4-sized, pen and ink sketches in particular are a bargain at around K300 per piece.