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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Art and prize winning tins of faeces

By Andrew Mulenga
It might be a few years old, and may be concerned with art from a primarily western perspective, but English philosopher and author of over 30 books, Roger Scruton’s BBC documentary, “Why Beauty Matters,” an enquiry into contemporary art and its perceived fall from grace is a compelling self-examination  for artists, art lovers and humanity in general to meditate  on.

Artist's shit (1961) by Piero Manzoni
“At any time between 1750 and 1930 if you asked educated people to describe the aim of poetry, art or music, they would have replied ‘beauty’”, he says, declaring that beauty is a value like truth and goodness, and that it has stopped being important in the 20th century.

“Art (in the 20th century) increasingly aimed to disturb and break moral taboos. I think we are losing beauty and my fear is that with it we shall lose the meaning of life” he narrates as images of old European master pieces such as Sandro Botticelli’s 1482 painting The Birth of Venus, slowly switch to a series of images that include Italian artist Piero Manzoni’s 1961 artwork, Artist's Shit which consists of 90 small tin cans, filled with feces, each with a label stating:  Artist's Shit, Contents 30 gr net, Freshly preserved, Produced and tinned,  in May 1961”. Ironically, a single tin from this artwork, if you can describe it as such, was sold for 124,000 Euros at Sotheby's in 2007.

Obviously it is works such as Artist's Shit that may have even prompted Scrutiny to record the documentary in the first place, because surely there can be no beauty in a tin of excrement.
“I want to persuade you that beauty matters. It’s not a subjective thing but a universal need of human beings. The great artists of the past were aware that human life was full of chaos and suffering but they had a remedy for this, and the name of that remedy was beauty,” he continues a few comments and moments later, probably bringing out the main thrust of his concern.

“A beautiful work of art brings consolation in sorrow and affirmation in joy; it shows human life to be worthwhile. Many modern artists are weary of this sacred task, the randomness of modern art they think, cannot be redeemed by art, instead it should be displayed”.

Displayed just as Fountain was, an outrageous 1917 work by a French artist whom Strut on blames for being the forerunner of contemptible contemporary art.
“The pattern was set about a century ago by the French artist Marcel Duchamp who signed a urinal with a fictitious signature and entered it in an exhibition designed to mock the world of art and the snobberies that go with it” he says “His gesture was satirical, but it has been interpreted in another way, that anything can be art, like a light going on and off, a can of excrement, even a pile of bricks. No longer does art have a sacred status, no longer does it raises us to a higher moral plane, and it is just one human gesture, no more than a laugh”.

Norwegian artist Jon Eirik Kopperud
with a conceptual piece that he
displayed at a gallery in Oslo in 2007
One is lured to sympathize with Scrutiny’s lamentation and concur with a good deal of what he says and brings to the fore. Of course art is not always about drawing and painting; sometimes it is about a hidden message within a picture or sculpture. But surely the work that is brought to mention in the documentary should never be treated as art in the first place. It is an enigma in itself why a tin of feces can be sold for over 100,000 euros, or how a video clip of people vomiting, like Martin Creed’s Sick Film which won the prestigious Turner Prize in 2001 should be allowed in an art gallery. How is such a thing even acceptable? This also provokes the thought of how difficult it is for African’s to show their finest works in the academically elite and financially lucrative galleries in on the European grid, but Europeans themselves are free to display their own excrement.
Anyway, this peculiar strand of expression, referred to as conceptual art, has not spared Zambia either. Although it has not really taken to the galleries that much and has been mild in comparison to the ones Scruton highlights. In recent times a few Zambian artists have dabbled in conceptual art, particularly a group of young artists who have lived and studied in Norway with the exception of Lawrence Chikwa who trained in Switzerland. Returning from Europe for a brief visit, whilst holding Links & Translations, a solo exhibition at the Swedish School in Lusaka in 2011, Chikwa told this author: “art is there to provide aesthetic beauty as well as tackle society’s matters. If you keep the public dancing to the tune of beauty, they will look at it as the only purpose of art. But art should also engage them to think”.  

In 2008, Norway-based artist Victor Mutelekesha decided to put up an exhibition upon returning for a holiday after being away for seven years. Entitled Dagali Meltdown, the idea-driven show featured video footage and photographs. But owing to its unfamiliar context, the exhibition met sharp criticism among the Zambian audience. The videos and photos depicted the snow-covered Nordic woodlands and mountaintops of Dagali, alien to the audience the work labored to find relevance.
In one video clip, Mutelekesha himself wore the mask of an ape and was scouring around the woodlands in the summer.

Viewers Discretion, (2007)
by Chanda Mwenya
“I wear the mask of an ape not necessarily to drum up the prejudice that has existed towards people from Africa, but I wear the mask of an animal that is synonymous to Africa, trying to adapt in a different forest environment” he explained in an interview during the exhibition.
One of the visitors to the exhibition, a fellow artist was recorded as saying: “Kaya ma pictures aya, niziba chabe ndiye kwamene bankala ku vyalo” (I don’t know what he is trying to say but I think he is just showing us where he lives abroad).

Weeks later and while studying at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts in Norway, Chanda Mwenya who is now a photojournalist and art columnist with the Zambia Daily Mail,  responded in support of his colleague.

“I felt obliged to respond to the reaction of the young Zambian artists and many other patrons who saw and did not seem to understand the work of Victor Mutelekesha… I would generally like to comment on the issue of the Zambian audience as regards to conceptual art. Understandably, this art form is said to be very theoretical and quite abstract in context. It is also perceived as a western ideal.”

At the time, Mwenya suggested that the paradox lies in what was generally defined or seen as art in Zambia or what the west describes as art. He also seemed baffled by the fact that conceptual art was not getting the admiration he thought it deserved. To strengthen his argument on how sober Mutelekesha’s conceptual piece was as opposed to what is shown in Europe, Mwenya introduced us to his Norwegian friend, artist Jon Eirik Kopperud whom in an exhibition in Norway displayed a white canvas, empty except for the words “This Painting Will Be Sold for a Blowjob” on it.
Another Oslo trained Zambian, Kate Naluyele, a promising young female artist who mysteriously fell off the grid following a somewhat stealthy return home a few years ago also delved into conceptual art and her piece Defeatism, basically a bucket of broken bottles, a light bulb, an empty chair and accompanying text was well received when it was shown at the Historical Museum in Oslo City Centre, 2007.

Nevertheless, apart from a little European influence here and there, maybe here in Zambia we should not worry too much that we are on the brink of losing our appreciation of beauty, fortunately here, no matter how thought provoking a work of art might be, our artists always make an effort to make it something nice to look at, something that in Scruton’s words is“…brings consolation in sorrow and affirmation in joy” something that “Shows human life to be worthwhile”. In Zambia and pretty much in many places on the African continent, a work of art is still something beautiful and not a tin of faeces.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Red Dot Gallery presents charming Belinda Ross landscapes

By Andrew Mulenga

In case you missed the opening of Under A Zambian Sky a solo exhibition by landscape artist Belinda Ross, or just have not yet found time to view the on-going show organised by Red Dot Gallery at the P’zazz restaurant, Zebra Crossings/Ababa House in Lusaka, the paintings are still on display until 26 June and are certainly worth a look.

Under A Zambian Sky, (oil on canvas)
by Belinda Ross
Even at first glance Ross’ paintings reflect the work of an artist who is truly passionate about painting as a process, someone who is obviously engrossed in it for intense long hours, and probably musically changing her paint brush sizes as rigorously as she applies her brush strokes to the canvas.

But maybe her process is best reflected in her own words as stated in her short artist’s statement for the exhibition.

“Painting, to me, represents total abandonment. Painting affords me the opportunity to illustrate my interpretation and appreciation of landscapes. Through manipulation of paint texture, colour and application I am continually exploring and discovering new techniques,” testifies the painter who grew up on a coastal farm in South Africa’s Eastern Cape just outside Port Alfred which instilled in her a “love and deep connection to the earth”.

“I set out to try and recreate on canvas the rich earthly tones that usually lie unseen on the surface of the earth and what I sense from my creative instinct.”

Aloe In The Wild, (oil on Canvas) by Belinda Ross
And indeed recreate “rich earthly tones” she does. Not only does she replicate natural earthly colours, but she brings to life what would be almost barren, yet picturesque landscapes that appear animated despite the fact that she does not place any wildlife or human figures in any of the paintings showing in Under A Zambian Sky. Probably the best of such specimens is the painting that carries the exhibition title itself Under A Zambian Sky that shows a typical rocky outcrop with parching, yellow shrubs and golden savannahs such as can be found in many parts of Zambia in October, just before the rains begin.

As a subject, she also appears to be in love with Aloe Vera, the plant famous for its rejuvenating and medicinal qualities which grows so abundantly in most parts of the country. This plant, always appearing in its wild, natural habitat is a recurring theme in her work carrying such romantic titles as Aloe In The Wild.

But it is not just the pictorial vitality of her paintings that is an entertaining element of the exhibition. Ross has quite an assortment of canvas sizes ranging from tiny 15cm by 15cm miniatures to some unusually formatted, wide-view paintings that would be almost impractical to frame and are best kept frameless owing to their slender horizontal proportions.

For a small exhibition, the show is neatly curated and the hand of Red Dot Gallery’s Serena Ansley is evident as she knows the display space which also serves as the main restaurant area ever so well, placing the paintings in clusters according to canvas size.

All the paintings in the show are done in oil on canvas, but this has not always been Ross’ medium of choice. Until 2007, she had preferred to use watercolour, painting detailed botanical illustrations; which is no surprise as she does have a Higher Diploma (1994) in Botanical Illustration.

Tranquil Water Lillies, (oil on canvas)
Nevertheless, although she is not an abstract painter and bears the characteristics of a post-impressionist which almost makes her a realistic painter who mimics real life, her artist’s statement further reveals that while it may not be visible in her work, the process of creating provides her a liberty that she would not otherwise have, an opportunity for escapism, one might presume.

“Whilst painting I experience a sense of unrestricted freedom that I as a woman am not able to demonstrate in other areas of my life. I am of the belief that exposure to art, and associated creative influences give my life a deeper meaning and a sense of humility,” declares Ross who is also a wife and proud mother of three daughters.

“What do I want to express with my work? Nothing else but that which every artist seeks: to achieve harmony through the balance of the relationships between lines, colours and places. But only in the cleanest and strongest way”.

Between 2007 and 2009 Ross has exhibited in over ten exhibitions in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. In 2011 she exhibited in at the Sugarbush Farm in Lusaka and at the American International School a year later.
When Under a Zambian Sky comes down, it makes way for Two points of View, an exhibition of wildlife and nature paintings by Katerina Ring and Lynne Taylor at the same venue opening on Thursday 27th June at 17:30hrs.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Angola shines for Africa amidst critic’s mockery at 55th Venice Biennale

By Andrew Mulenga

Founded in the late 1800s, the Venice Biennale is one of the world’s largest contemporary art exhibitions, taking place every two years in Venice, Italy. The Biennale is considered by many the Olympics or World Cup of contemporary art and being able to participate as an artist, gallery or country is an outstanding achievement in itself.

Stefano Pansera, co-curator Angolan pavilion, Edson Chagas,
Angolan artist, Paolo Baratta, president Venice Biennale,
Paula Nascimento, co-curator Angolan pavilion,
Rosa Cruz, Angolan culture minister and Massimo Bray,
Italian culture minister  - Courtesy of Italo Rondinella
The latest installment of the Venice Biennale brings together more than 150 artists from 37 countries spanning from the 19th century to the present day and as always an outstanding national pavilion is selected by an expert panel of judges, and the curators of the winning exhibition space are honoured with the coveted Golden Lion Award.

This year, exhibiting for the very first time, Angola has been awarded this prestigious accolade making it the first sub-Saharan country to do so and defying the odds against some very stiff competition from the more experienced and seemingly organised German, French and Danish pavilions with whom the African country shared the Cini Palace, a lavish building full of history near a bustling tourist spot. In fact Angola plays ‘David’ to the German ‘Goliath’, toppling the so-called developed country as holder of the top honour of best pavilion.

But it turns out that the leading German art magazine ART did not react too well to the fact that Angola has won the Golden Lion award and appears to have written a shaggy-dog story in an article entitled "ANGOLA! WO IST ANGOLA?"  (translated ANGOLA! WHERE IS ANGOLA?") outwardly making fun of the African recipient of the accolade.

The article by the magazine’s senior editor Ute Thun suggests the Angolan pavilion is not one of the visitors’ favourites and expresses surprise at its emerging as the winner. The article also insinuates that the Angolan team may have gone out of its way to lobby for the accolade using co-curator Stefano Rabolli Pansera as someone who is a “well-networked” architecture and urban planning specialist. Thun’s article has attracted sharp criticism from outspoken Dar-es-Salaam born and German based art market practitioner Safia Dickersbach, however, who has condemned the article describing it as “somewhat disappointing, narrow-minded and an almost stereotypic viewpoint on this year's winner of the Golden Lion contrasting with the magazine's aspiration to cover the art scene from a global perspective”.

In a short commentary sent to Andrew Mulenga’s Hole in the Wall, entitled Angola wins, but Germany's "ART - Das Kunstmagazin" wonders: Where is Angola? Dickersbach protests that ART magazine, “claimed that hardly any visitor actually saw the work of the (Angolan) photo artist Edson Chagas in Palazzo Cini and speculated about ‘successful lobbying and networking’ by curator Stefano Rabolli Pansera. The only reason which was given for these vague conjectures was the fact that Pansera had already curated Angola's contribution to the architecture biennial a year ago.”

“I ask myself what kind of "networking and lobbying" had preceded the Golden Lion prizes previously awarded to the national pavilions of the U.S. with Bruce Nauman in 2009 and of Germany with Christoph Schlingensief curated by Susanne Gaensheimer in 2011? Was there also speculation happening back then about the reasons for these successes?” queries Dickersbach who is also a very compelling critic of TURN, the new cultural support program initiated by the German Federal Cultural Foundation (‘Africa is not a country’, German funders told’, Saturday Post, Hole in the Wall, 12 January 2013).

“Were those winning countries, artists and curators maybe too established and influential so that there was no reason to worry about illegitimate manoeuvring? Are only the Africans again considered prone to cronyism and patronage which ART more stately translated with ‘networking and lobbying’ to make it fit the aristocratic environment of Venice's palazzos? ART dutifully speaks about detractors spreading such rumours, but the question remains why an influential German art magazine provides ample space for vague suppositions by obviously resentful competitors.”

She discloses that ART is published by the largest German publishing house Gruner & Jahr which she states belongs to the media conglomerate Bertelsmann. She further states the magazine is primarily financed by advertisements of major galleries, museums, art fairs and auction houses and it would be very interesting to find out “which hidden agendas ART is pursuing with its lopsided coverage of Angola's success in Venice” and that maybe some disappointment about the showing of its own major business clients during the event in Venice played a role as well.

In her commentary, Dickersbach further suggests that the German magazine “mocked the choice of Angola's national pavilion to mirror the motto of the main exhibition Encyclopaedic Palace by calling the Angolan presentation Luanda - An Encyclopaedic City, instead of ignoring the main exhibition's theme as allegedly all the other national pavilions did. The question is: What is wrong with picking up and variegating the main exhibition's motto? Does it mean that the artistic quality of Angola's contribution is inferior just due to its decision to artistically interpret the Venice biennial's central theme? Or the other national pavilions’ decision to deliberately ignore the main exhibition's theme proves their independence and intellectualism?”

The choice of Angola was made by a five-woman jury chaired by Jessica Morgan (Great Britain) and comprised of Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy (Mexico), Francesco Manacorda (Italy), Ali Subotnick (United States), and Bisi Silva, an independent Nigerian curator and founding director of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos who is probably the most hard-working woman in contemporary African art having curated the West African space that was the centrepiece at Art Dubai 2013, the UAE’s premier art fair just a few months ago.

The judges at Venice are said to have paid particular attention to countries that have managed to provide original insight into expanding art practice within their region but Angola’s pavilion was selected for the way it reflected on “the irreconcilability and complexity of site”.

As much as the Angola pavilion was co-curated by a non-African, the exhibition was commissioned and supported by the Angolan Ministry of Culture, and in any case, the Angolan government must be commended for supporting its artists at a cost even though every government owes the arts its allegiance. The Angolans must be delighted too at the outcome as it was not a bad investment after all, seeing that as newcomers to Venice, they took an expensive gamble and rented a plush exhibition venue for the entire duration of the Biennale, which runs until November 24.

And in which ever context one may want to ask the question “Angola! Where is Angola?!”, if the contemporary art world did not know where Angola is at the Venice Biennale or on the African continent, now they do.

Other than Angola, South Africa, Kenya and the purportedly cash-strapped Zimbabwe are also present at Venice. South Africa has a stand-alone pavilion whereas Kenya and Zimbabwe have chosen more economical and temporary venues.  It is through an official invitation to the Zimbabwean Ministry of Education, Sport, Art and Culture that Zambia’s neighbour and co-host of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly are attending Venice for the second time.

Nevertheless, Africa must join Angolan in celebration for putting it on the map especially at a time when creative Africans on the continent continue making us proud, even though our continent’s share of the global creative economy is less than 1 per cent according to research revealed by Mike van Graan the Executive Director of the Cape town-based African Arts Institute during the Creative Economy Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2011.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Is Zambia participating in UNWTO poster competition?

By Andrew Mulenga

Every two years, on the occasion of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), a poster competition called the Vettor Giusti Tourism Poster Competition is held providing an opportunity to showcase the creativity and beauty found in the posters used to promote tourism in each country.

The Vettor Giusti Tourism Poster Competition is open to all the member states of the UNWTO and is channelled exclusively through their national tourism administrations, which in Zambia’s case should be the Zambia National Tourism Board ZNTB.
Each member country was invited to submit one poster. During the 19th session of the General Assembly in Gyeongju, Republic of Korea, in October 2011, the winners were announced.

Sadly, ZNTB appears to have done very badly in publicising this poster competition, if not to Zambian visual artists, graphic design houses and photographers who have the skills to design such a poster, but to the general public who will actually be voting for the Zambian poster to win, if at all we even have a poster being entered in the competition.

 According to the UNWTO Information Sheet No. 1, Annex 2. Tourism posters competition, “For this 2013 edition, each Member State will be invited to submit one sole poster in electronic format, which shall be posted directly on the UNWTO website… and the web page will be open for the submission of posters to the competition until 23 June 2013” reads the document in part.

It further states that:

                        “The poster selected by each Member State must:

                        - be representative of the country's tourism,

                        - have been published after the nineteenth session of the Assembly (that is, 

                          after September 2011),

                        - have a high level of graphic design and communication,

                        - be submitted in a file no larger than 5 MB, and

                        - contain in its design the name of the country it represents.

                        6. All posters validly submitted will be displayed on the UNWTO website until the announcement of the winners during the Assembly.

                        7. In order to select the winners of the 6 regional prizes, a jury will be established composed of the Chairs of the 6 Regional Commissions of the UNWTO, one representative from each of the two host countries (Republic of Zambia and Republic of Zimbabwe), one representative of the UNWTO's Communications programme, and a communications professional designated by the Organization. Each member of the jury shall vote for 3 posters from each region, except his or her own region in the case of representatives of the member countries.

                        8. During the Assembly, the final decision of the jury and the results of the popular vote will be announced and the official ceremony will be held to award the 2013 Vettor Giusti Prizes to the winning countries.

                        9. The 7 winning posters will appear on the UNWTO website until the next edition of the Vettor Giusti posters competition at the 2015 General Assembly. After the prizes have been awarded, the printed versions of the winning posters are to be submitted by the corresponding countries for display in the entrance hall of the UNWTO building until the next edition of the competition at the 2015 General Assembly.”

Nevertheless, as of today, very little is known about such an important competition to Zambians outside ZNTB. But this is no surprise, for years ZNTB has never seen beyond the Mosi – Oa – Tunya as a marketing chip for tourism in Zambia. Furthermore, the tourism board’s murky vision cannot see beyond wildlife and selected national parks as some of the county’s assets all the while forgetting its biggest one, the people, who possess friendliness and political stability that can be found in no other country in the world.

 In all fairness, ZNTB has not really done much to put this country on the map, without being cynical, one wonders what it is they portray when they attend the many tourism conferences and expositions they so eagerly and  frequently attend abroad.

 And as a concerned Zambian citizen of Livingston Humphrey Mhango rightfully observed concerning the poster competition in a letter to the author, “I thought our bureaucrats were noting that this document (UNWTO Information Sheet No. 1) would now be our check list for our preparations! Alas, no one seems interested!”

 “I am surprised that to date no one wants to be in the clear on what the terms of reference for us to Co-Host the 20th GA of the UNWTO are. If you read the bid document, you will be surprised to read Comrade Mugabe’s foreword. He clearly says Zimbabwe invited Zambia to co-host the 20th GA,” states Mhango “How come our President’s foreword and our Minister of Tourisms' foreword are missing in the document? is this politics of underdevelopment where anything done by the previous administration is trashed? Let us not forget that the bid was submitted in August 2011 and the new government only took over in late September 2011.”

 Nonetheless, the previous UNWTO poster competition was won by Sri Lanka, the poster developed under the tagline ‘Visit Sri Lanka’ – ‘Refreshingly Sri Lanka,’ simply featured two wild cats in a tree with word “wild” splashed boldly above them.

 In any case ZNTB are not the only ones that seemingly fail to get information through to mother Zambia. Take our embassies abroad for instance, global competitions such as the 2013 ~ 16th Annual Peace Pals International

Art Exhibition & Awards, come through their mail annually but what do they do to get these competitions home? The Peace Pals competition as well as the The KANOON International Biannual Art Competition & Exhibition organized by Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, are children’s art competitions that talented Zambian children aged between 5 and 16 never get the chance to enter because their missions abroad whom of course are the recipients of such competitions, shamefully make no efforts to publicize these back home. These two competitions and others were received by this author from Zambia’s permanent mission to the United Nations in New York with no attached publicity instructions, but surely, there is only so much a journalist can do. For children and parents with internet access reading this article, “Google” the two competitions for more details.

Monday, 3 June 2013

37d Gallery hosts emerging artists

By Andrew Mulenga

Once again, 37d Gallery, a private venue in Lusaka’s leafy Kabulonga residencial area did not disappoint when it recently hosted six emerging artists, Mulenga Mulenga, David Makala, Natasha Evans, Tom Phiri, Rabson Phiri and Emmanuel Chibaye   in a thoroughly absorbing show of works entitled Movement-Momentum.

Balance (scrap metal) by Rabson Phiri
A relatively new space, on the Zambian art scene, 37d is a highly exclusive venue and visitors to the gallery only get to see it by invitation. The gallery space is on private property, and the organizers, The stART Foundation, a private trust founded to promote the visual arts in 2011 strictly emphasize on ‘high quality’ artwork and they are quite picky on artists they invite to exhibit in the space.

The stART Foundation’s board members comprises entreprenuers Claire Chan and Cilla Frost-d’Elbee among others. Last year Chan was quoted as saying “However, do not expect so many exhibitions at 37d, We can only do it so many times a year; it will have to remain exclusive. We can only have at least three exhibitions a year.”

To outsiders, Chan can appear inscrutable and aloof but those who know her, however, say that she is good company and retains a youthful sense of mischief and passion for art. She is extremely focused on what she does and is also known to drive a hard deal.

It appears The stART Foundation intends to make 37d a viable western-style commercial gallery carefully selecting artists, hosting them at a fee of course and keeping a percentage of the earnings on every work sold. They have an exclusive list of buyers whom they invite to view the work and bid for purchases at champagne-flowing exhibition openings, and from the look of things, it seems to be working. They have successfully hosted such artists as Flinto Chandia, Stary Mwaba, Lawrence Yombwe and Pam Guhrs-Carr.  

Mwanapwebo (bronze and other media)
by Tom Phiri
The emerging artists’ exhibition Movement-Momentum, can safely be declared a success particularly as far as sales for individual artists are concerned. Little known Natasha Evans, the top-selling artist in the show must have walked away about KR36, 000 (thirty six thousand kwacha rebased) richer judging from the little red stickers that are placed beside artworks in an exhibition to show that a work has been sold. Evans provided the space with a wide range of thematic subject matter in a variety of paint-related media and collage techniques. The equally unfamiliar David Makala probably walked away with KR24, 700 (twenty-four thousand and seven hundred kwacha rebased) if all the bidders honoured their payments to the talented painter whose work appears to have very strong Stary Mwaba influences.

Mulenga Mulenga sold the only painting she had in the show, which, if you asked anyone who knows her work, was not even one of her stronger specimens. The mystery however is why she only had a single work on display as opposed to artists such as Evans who had about ten paintings on display, quite a disparity for a group exhibition, disparity that would have made sense if the show was a Natasha Evans solo exhibition that features ‘other’ artists, but obviously the well capable curators at The stART Foundation know exactly what they were doing.

Emmanuel Chibaye was able to make at least one sale of his enigmatic Dali-esque pen and ink drawings as did Rabson Phiri, a product of late Friday Tembo’s Ulendo Studios in Lusaka’s Linda Compound. Phiri sold a magnificent scrap metal sculpture entitled Balance that mymics someone riding a unicycle and has trailing flanges that give the impression of wind and speed.

The Vagrant (mixed media)
by Natasha Evans
Tom Phiri, one of the few, promising young Zambian artists trying to work in the challenging and costly material of bronze had a good number of Luvale inspired Mwanapwebo masks but could not sell a single one on opening night.

Nevertheless, while 37d Gallery is one of the best things to happen to the Zambian art scene in the past couple of years, and as much as it is playing a part in helping a select group of artists to get their works sold, its emphasis on exclusivity is somewhat worrying.

Let us suppose artists are convinced to sign with the gallery under some sort of binding contractual circumstances. This will mean that a body of work by a particular artist that was exclusively meant for an exhibition at 37d cannot be enjoyed by the general public. It will be shown at a private gallery opening, purchased and whisked away to an equally private residence, personal office or boardroom, never to be seen or enjoyed by anyone else other than the collector again.

Threshing (Acrylic on canvas) by David Makala

However, 37d is not entirely all about sales and the commercial aspects of running a gallery. The gallery, alongside The stART Foundation runs Just Imagine an outreach programme that carries out workshops where some basic art skills are imparted and talented children mingle with established art professionals.

Giga Psych III (pen on paper) by Emmanuel Chibaye
Earlier, in the South Luangwa National Park led by renowned artist and stART founder member Pam Guhrs-Carr (the first artist to exhibit at 37d) in partnership with local artists Godwin Bishedi and Aaron Banda, held an impressive eight workshops with an oversubscription of fifty children in a rural setting.