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Thursday, 21 July 2011

Dutch artist at Henry Tayali to advise on commercial viability

By Andrew Mulenga

Marrigje de Maar, a seasoned Dutch artist who is in her late 60s is currently in Zambia to share her experience in a 10-day spin session to see how she can help the Visual Arts Councils' Henry Tayali Gallery come up with strategies on how to market itself, in the process of transcending into a more professional viewing space as well as commercial entity that is self sustaining as per gallery protocol in line with current global trends.

Marrigje de Maar at the Henry Tayali Gallery 
in the Lusaka showgrounds on Wednesday
Here under the auspices of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Lusaka and PUM Netherlands, a non-profit body that allows professional volunteers (senior experts) to transfer their knowledge in ¨an efficient manner, thereby promoting self-sufficiency, entrepreneurship and the sustainable development of small and medium-sized enterprise in developing countries and emerging markets,” she will also be visiting various players in the Zambian art community. On Tuesday she was at The Post’s head office in Lusaka to view the newspaper's art collection and chat with staff as well as fire random questions at them on their opinion on the importance of art.
"I'm here to work with the Henry Tayali Gallery to see how we can make it into a viable business entity, looking at it as a cultural enterprise. We really have to heighten the business aspect by devising a number of schemes on how to make money" alluded Marrigje, who was accompanied by painter and former VAC chairman Mulenga Chafilwa along with painter, emerging curator and arts administrator Zenzele Chulu.
She explained that as much as plans for the gallery should be those of self sustenance, there is need to re-introduce the gallery to a more general public, to make it universally known, not just to the consuming elite but also to the average man on the streets.
And Chulu revealed that times have changed and funds from abroad in terms of grants are no longer provided to sustain the running of the gallery.

Being a non-profit organisation the gallery depends on the VAC whose support from entities such as NORAD, HIVOS and the National Arts Council (NAC) is all but long brevet. Other support and cooperation used to come from various embassies, Ndeke Hotel and the Lusaka Show Society.
“As a gallery funding ceased in 2008. So without that luxury we have to see how we can polish the tools we have to maximise our visibility in order to tap into the financial indicators which according to economists is improving” he said “Its really a time to look within, even Marrigje has come with no funding, but ideas. In fact what we will be having over the next 10 days is idea exchange".
Chafilwa also commented on the aspect of visibility saying it is sad that the biggest visual artists are only household names within artists and collectors circles, whereas for Zambian singers; names are easily attached to their works. He also expressed concern on the stagnation of artists, observing how they often fall into a comfort zone as long as they sell a work or two and that this often affected the pricing of works at the gallery.
Nevertheless one would want to side with Chafilwa with regards visual artists visibility. Even at The Post, the art collection is just hung on the walls without titles, and as Marrigje rightfully observed small tags bearing the artists name and the title of the work can work wonders not only for researchers but for the people occupying the office space in which they are hung as someone might read a work's title and unlock view that was visually cryptic. This might be something Twaya-Art Gallery who have been coordinating the supply of art work to The Post through their "art in the workplace" project may want to take into consideration.
Before she leaves, Marrigje hopes to see a running internet connection, a Facebook page, a working website, newsletter and some organisational guidelines in terms of gallery programming at the Henry Tayali.
As arts observers, we can only wish this enthusiastic team all the best in their endeavours to ´re-launch´ the gallery and ultimately re-publicise the art scene.
If they are truly to achieve positive results they should focus on an outright advocacy campaign and literally poke the greater community in the eye. As much as the forthcoming agricultural and commercial show will be fertile ground to launch such an onslaught owing to the fact that it is the one time in the year when all walks of life converge in the showgrounds, where the gallery is based, there will be need to continue focusing on satellite or alternative venues. Taking art to the people as it were.
Restaurants and coffee shops for instance have proven successful spots for exhibitions both for sales and publicity. In 2005 the "Art a la carte" exhibition by various artists at Rhapsody's managed to offload a remarkable amount of sculptures, which was a surprise because it is common knowledge in Zambia that sculpture shows rarely sell. Similarly in 2006, Baba Jakeh Chande and Ngamanya Banda held a reasonably successful show at the Chit Chat Cafe, and in more recent times, the increasingly popular Ababa House's Zebra Crossings Cafe  (which by the way is currently showing Lutanda Mwamba and Radu Kirby) is proving a successful alternative viewing space.
Possible venues can include furniture showrooms, shops, lobbies of buildings, trendy boutiques and hair salons, churches, hospitals, airports, anywhere else the public converges.
If not sales, this will provide the much needed feedback in terms of how the public react to art, and maximise the number of people who will have opportunities to see it. And the more Zambians who see  art, the greater the appreciation.
Sadly,  without intending to attack these hardworking individuals - artists particularly the ones who seem to stagnate over the years think all they have to do is hunker down to the Henry Tayali Gallery and that opportunities for exposure will mysteriously appear out of nowhere.
The Tayali team should also make sure they list shows on as many notice boards, websites, bus stations market places, coffee tables and events calendars as possible.
Exposing contemporary Zambian art to as many first-timers as possible is fundamental for the prosperity of the genre.
The Henry Tayali gallery is situated in the Lusaka Showgrounds. It is the Headquarters of VAC - the national organisation for visual artists. It was launched in 1991 but was officially opened in 1995.
Named after one of the most illustrious artists who was steeped into African nationalism, the gallery is arguably the largest if not the only full time gallery in Lusaka and in a busy year hosts an average of 2 exhibitions a month with a crowd capacity of about 250 plus patrons. The Gallery is open Monday to Friday and entry is free.
Now showing at the gallery is Tilitonse an exhibition that features Lutanda Mwamba, Style Kunda, Mulenga Chafilwa, Linda Chandia, Mathew Mudenda, a return on the scene for Kate Naluyele and also  Copperbelt representation by Danny Chiyesu.

Hivos launches Zambia Media & Creativity Fund

Hivos (Humanistisch Instituut voor Ontwikkelingssamenwerking) a Dutch organization for development yesterday launched the Zambia Media & Creativity Fund at the Courtyard Hotel in Lusaka.
At a roundtable meeting for invited stake-holders that included  the arts and culture community, media organisations, commercial enterprises and individual professionals, Hivos announced that the "Zambia Media & Creativity Fund envisions supporting initiatives by Zambians that clearly demonstrate innovation, as well as building of capacity within the established arts, culture and media sector. The fund will focus on media, art professionals and volunteers with an intermediary role: journalists, bloggers, performers, artists, cultural and ICT entrepreneurs and their initiatives, media and platforms.
Capacity building through training and exchange will be an important inherent part of the Zambia Media & Creativity Fund. By setting up a network within the country, the Zambia Media & Creativity Fund will stimulate peer exchange and common learning.
For 2011, € 132.000 is available to be allocated through a maximum of 6 grants. The size of the grants has been defined on basis of the following strategic objectives:
3 grants of € 12.000 for ‘small/upcoming’ innovative and possibly ‘risky’ projects. For example for individual initiatives like digital natives – discussions on Facebook on where in Lusaka there are potholes and a radio station to feature that in a 5 minutes morning spot every time till city council does something about it.
3 grants of € 32.000 for bigger ideas and organisations, for more expensive projects like for example ‘urban art’ or creating a social space to use internet, meet and engage.
Together with the awarding of the grant, a training and/or exchange programme will be defined jointly between the partner organisation and Hivos for each specific project. This will be designed after a baseline study which will be carried out with partners selected after the call for proposals.
They will take off as part of the Expression & Engagement programme of the Southern Africa regional office of Hivos and will run from 2011-2015. The proposals will be selected and grants awarded under the responsibility of the programme officer Expression & Engagement for Southern Africa. The administration of the programme will be handled by the regional office of Hivos.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Mwaba, Sanderson, Planel lend ambience to Zebra Crossings Cafe

By Andrew Mulenga

The Zebra Crossings Cafe, Ababa House's cosy little bar and restaurant on Lusaka's Addis Ababa drive is once again host to an art exhibition.
Winter Shiraz (Acrylic on canvas)
 by Nicole Sanderson
This time Frank Planel, Ngandwe Mwaba and Nicole Sanderson paintings and drawings have lent to the ambience of the dining area of the cafe. Speaking of which, Planel's large format animal-themed pastel drawings and acrylic paintings appear to be quite at home as they go well with the Zebra print salt-sellers and the gecko bass relief wooden pillars.
In fact, Planel's drawings make up the greater part of the exhibition with about 10 works on display. But before you get to the corner where his work is displayed, you are greeted by a flirtatious little painting by Sanderson entitled Winter Shiraz which depicts the close cropped lower torso of a woman clad only in panties and stockings that appears to be upside down. Judging from its soft shades of red as well as its title, one can deduce that it
Pick ‘N Play (Ballpoint pen on paper)
by Ngandwe Mwaba
was partially inspired by Shiraz red wine. To the immediate left there is yet another interesting painting by the artist, a semi abstract painting of a woman playfully caressing her naked back. Unfortunately, despite her entertaining themes, Sanderson only has about four works in total on display.
Mwaba's work is in the space right after Sanderson's. He has about six on display and all of them are in his  trademark medium, ball point pen, the kind found in the pencil case of every school bag. And while he too does not seem to have a specific theme, it is becoming a delight to see what the young artist is able to do with an everyday writing tool.
Zebra (Acrylic on canvas)
by Francis Planel
Out of his six works on display, four were booked for purchase on the opening night.  According to Mwaba, he managed to secure a purchase for one of the works even before it could be hung up. As alternative exhibition space, Ababa House is becoming increasingly popular with a constant flow of small, but significant artistic activities. On Thursday July 14 they will be hosting a must see exhibition featuring all round artist Lutanda Mwamba and painter Radu Kirby. While we appreciate all that Serena and team are doing with regards their enthusiasm and support for the arts, it would be good if they could print mini portfolios of the artists whose works are on display at any given time. In this case not much is know about Planel and Sanderson, so some mini biographies could have really come in handy, especially because artists cannot be present throughout the duration of an exhibition.
Mwaba, nevertheless was available and expressed enthusiasm at the opportunity to exhibit it the Zebra Crossing Cafe.
"Personally, this is a good thing for me. In terms of career I think this place is a good apace to be spotted. I see myself gaining new collectors. I think it has also helped me gain a little confidence to work towards my first solo exhibition some time. But I can’t say I'm not in a hurry for that" he says.