Art Yak with CHANDA MWENYA
MODZI Art Centre, located at the Swedish International School in Lusaka, is becoming a vital platform on the Zambian art scene.
Since inception, the centre has hosted some important art exhibitions and varied art activities, featuring some celebrated local and international acts in visual arts, music and media art.
Last Saturday, the centre hosted an important meeting for local artists who convened to discuss art under the theme “Conceptualise, contextualise and decolonising art in the African context”.
The well-thought theme was moderated by art collector Lwao Chilambwe.
The panel of discussants included artists and curators Zenzele Chulu and William Miko; art manager and curator Julia Kaseka; artist Mulenga Mulenga; and Tanzanian artist, curator and educator Gadi Ramadhani from KokoTen Studio.
Noticeably missing at the forum were representatives from the Ministry of Tourism and Arts and the National Arts Council of Zambia (NAC). It certainly would have been more productive if either party were present at this forum that discussed, among other things, the independence of critics and curators within the margins of cultural paradigms and the decolonisation of art in Africa from the Zambian perspective.
But this is not the first time both the ministry and the council representatives are missing at such important forums. Nevertheless, I must underline that the theme was well thought out, and the panellists rose to the occasion to argue issues affecting them on the continent and on the local front.
It was lengthily discussed and acknowledged that while artists remained resolute to create, the Zambian arts scene lacked important intermediaries such art promoters, curators, critics and art journalists in creating an effective creative industry.
And while some of these intermediary roles are being taken up by artists themselves just to fill up the void, it was bemoaned that the country lacked corporate sponsorship of art.
The artists were baffled that the same multinational companies that are actively involved in the collection and development of art in neighbouring South Africa showed no interest in Zambian art. This lack of corporate support towards art in Zambia was largely blamed on the lack of an art policy in the country.
The missing art policy in the country, coupled with lack of implementing guidelines, was identified as one of the major hindrances to the development of art.
However, it was acknowledged that despite not having a deliberate art policy, Zambia is a signatory to many United Nations treaties on arts and culture which the country needs to domesticate for its own benefit.
Alex Nkazi, an artist who was part of the audience, shared that the country is on the right path with nurturing art in schools by organising local exhibitions at district, provincial and national levels, something that the panel members did not seem to fully appreciate in their deliberations.
Ultimately, the discussion at Modzi does not only form the basis for critical thinking in art, but is vital in equipping local artists with the understanding of global trends in art in general.
I particularly appreciated the discussion as a platform that reinvigorated some self-awareness in art intermediaries and instilled a sense of purpose among the artists to create art which is more relevant to society.