31 March, 2011

Registration done

It, at times, is difficult to know where you are in the internet business. If you want to have a website you need three things.

1. You need a webhost; that is, a company that puts your site up into the Internet.
2. You need to have a domain registered - this simply is the name of the site including the extension following the name. That, the extension, is the .com, or .org, or whatever dot is out there, on the market.
3. You agree on what could be called internet space, or the kind of volume you are going to use. The more you want, the more you pay. Since we are starters we do not want all that much.

I think we have 1, 2 & 3; and if I understand the conversations with the provider right I could put up a website - if only I knew how to do it.

Reminds me faintly of learning how to drive a car - in my case that happened about 35 years ago, when, I returning direction Lusaka having visited one at that time famous roadside tavern in the Chongwe area, had to take the wheel as the owner of the vehicle had passed out in blissful sleep. I am not advising anything of the sort to save money on car driving instructors.

That was a sideline.

The domain registration has been confirmed and the other stuff I only believe once I have been billed for it.

I opted for an Nl (=Netherlands) hosting company as for me its easy when it comes to bills, and there is a lot of experience in the Nl's on these services, and I speak their language; and they, or that company, being Dutch, are not going to run away from their responsibilities, provided you have paid. The last part of that sentence makes the billing issue so important to me. If I pay they have to perform some service, as arranged by contract. If I am not billed, and if billed have not paid, then there is no right to the desired service.

A nice company does some of the stuff upfront for you, in good trust; good trust meaning that it is assumed that you are a bona fide entity, and are going to do your thing as you should.

I have to leave this topic here - food is ready - but there are very interesting remarks to be made on this topic. Truly, to do business in the absense of some degree of justifiable trust is awkward, if not impossible.

To finish this of, the domain name has been confirmed and indeed it is http://www.zamart.org/

Up some time in April, I hope.

22 March, 2011

www.zamart in progress (1)

Use the Archive and Label options on the sidebar to go to previous posts. Click on one of the pages under the pages slot to go to another page.

Page initiated: 22 Mar 2011

In the previous blog post One Month Down the Line I reported the successful download of the software necessary for website design.

The software I downloaded but installed in an operating manner (that was the real hitch, not the downloading as such) were two programmes called Apache and Drupal.

Apache enables you to see the site you are designing on screen without having to upload it to an Internet server (host). This allows you to work on your site-in-development without having to be online,a necessary operating condition when you work in an environment with poor info transfer speed (Kb/s).

Drupal is another open source software for IT purposes and specifically for website design serving the/a community. It truly is gratifying to note that the immense technological progress in computer and internet technologies has yielded products that are simply for the common good (hopefully, but in any case for common use), without having to purchase, lease or hire; and without conditions imposed on you, the user, which you may not feel happy about.

The availability of such software I would call progress and in the case of our venture it enables the setting up of the zamart website.

We are getting there, bit by bit. I am now working on the main menu – the tabs and associated pages that are at the top of the taxonomical structure that a website has. It mostly is good fun – but tomorrow is dedicated to farming.

The rainy season is coming to an end and this is the last chance to put trees in the ground that can root naturally, without irrigation. I am planting orange, mango, guava, coffee and lychee seedlings plus a few lychee marcots.

In any case this website, I presume, will be up & working way before these trees bear fruit………

17 March, 2011

Tribute Art Exhibition

@Henry Tayali Gallery
25th March, 2011.

From: Visual Arts Council <vac@zamnet.zm>
Sent: Thu, March 17, 2011 10:04:30 AM
Subject: Tribute Art Exhibition

--> -->

Art Exhibition by & @ VAC, Showgrounds, Lusaka

One Month Down the Line

Page initiated: 17 march 2011

About a month ago I launched the idea of setting up a website to be the Virtual Museum of Modern Zambian Art.

To promote and test the idea I started a Blog, some sort of mini-website. A Blog is particularly suited to record development in time focused on a theme or subject (the log part of it) and is particularly suited to solicit and receive content or comment from Blog visitors.

ZamArt Blog, as it is, gives you a bit of the taste of what a www.zamart.com website is going to look like; by having some of the pages the zamart site should have, a tiny bit of content, and the Internet communication facility (the Blog itself).

Responses have been sufficiently encouraging to carry on with this project. Non-response also has been significant and indicates underutilisation of Internet technology and communication, notably by artists.

Summary of Concept:
The projected zamart website is to have three main functions:
1.   To be a virtual museum of modern Zambian art
2.   To be an IT communication platform open to all interested in Zambian art
3.   To be a market link in the buying and selling of art (and possibly quality crafts)

To get there presently the following is in motion:
a.    ZamArt Blog development
b.    Work on artists’ profiles (to appear as posts in the blog and facilitating online arrangement of Art for Sale)
c.    Design of the ZamArt website

Website development:
During the past days  (yes indeed, a protracted effort it was!), I have downloaded and installed, with a little help from my friends, website building software especially developed for community servicing purposes. And indeed, o wonder, today on this very screen before my eyes appeared the welcome message of the home page of the zamart site to be. You may ask yourself why I should torture myself with the pertinently obscure and intransigent matter (or is it non-matter?) that website building software is – should I not direct my energy and intelligence (or what is left of it....) towards an activity in which I can claim at least some proficiency and competence? My answer, based on long local experience, is that in our environment you must know what you are doing, even if you do not do it yourself. That is not to deny the need for a genuine IT professional. But to communicate with such a person requires some understanding of what (s)he is doing or is capable of. In the meantime, let us move on!

Once more I invite you to comment, react or contribute as you like to:



01 March, 2011

Profile of Gijsbert Witkamp and his Art

Doc initiated : 1 Mar 2011
Last updated: 31 Aug 2013
Sketch in oil paint of the emerging artist when about 18 years by his father. Around 1962.

Note: This brief autobiography focuses on my artistic work and therefore largely bypasses my other professional work in education, management, research, income generation for NGO's, consultancy and adventures into farming.

Born 1944, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Professional education: Rietveld Academy of Art (art teachers diploma course), Amsterdam, Netherlands; University of Leiden, (MA cultural anthropology with specialisations in non-Western art and anthropology of sub-Sahara Africa, judicium cum laude) Leiden, Netherlands.
Main techniques practiced: drawing, painting, graphics (dry point and lino cut), murals (painting, mosaic), and batik stamp design.
Interest in art started spontaneously at secondary school age 12 when I discovered I could loose myself/get into the imagery I was making. Painting got me into another world, a world of sensation beyond practical reality. My father (himself a good amateur artist and lecturer at a Teachers Training College) aptly gave me a box of oil paints on my 12th birthday (I can still smell the paint); once in a while took me along on a nature sketching trip and later for a visit at the Amsterdam Municipal Museum of Modern Art. (He spent most time with the modern classical masters and I with the contemporaries). Those were the heydays and later days of “Abstract Art” and "Abstract expressionism."  

1970 - 1974
After secondary A level school it was time to think about the practical issue of “making a living.” I enrolled for an art teaching diploma course, passed the exam and started to teach "art" part time at a junior high school. It brought just enough money in for bread and butter and allowed me to continue to study and practice art. I did an evening course, at the local art school at Leeuwarden, (province of Friesland, Netherlands), in lithography (yes, on stone) and started to make dry points. 
I got a spacious studio (helped by the local cultural authority) and acquired etching and lithographic presses. I also did drawing and oil painting.
"Threatened land." Dry point, 1972.

I participated in the annual art fairs; festive social occasions where each artist could put his work on display (for free) on a market stall, facilitating access by a public that would shy formal exhibitions in awesome or exclusive places like museums and art galleries.
Another line of professional development was social. I had left behind the notion that the mission of art was to be a vehicle for “individual expression.” The transition, from personal functionality to social functionality, was a critical concern in my development at the time and its success or failure in my eyes meant being a professional or not. More precisely, there is nothing wrong with art being purely or in the first place “individual expression,” but the relevance of such work might be limited to the image producing individual. This approach becomes questionable when it comes to art destined to socially function, like art commissioned for public display. This kind of thinking also led me into issues of distribution of art in society, and as a designer prompted me into the graphic arts and murals. I did my practicals in “art and society” by being an active member of the Cultural Council of the provincial capital were I was living.
"Made in Holland" 1974 ethylsilicate mural of 12 x 8 m2.
At the same time, in my twenties, I developed an interest in the technical/material aspect of making art. I started to read manuals on various art techniques and other documents (aided by the presence of a beautiful provincial library). The material technology of art is a fascinating world by itself, linking the scientific and the artistic; and going into it established the awareness that the non-material picture that is in your mind is an outcome of light reflected by a material object (“mediated by a learned system of interpretation”). It also brought in my mind the importance of “craftsmanship” to the fore; technical ability and skill, which in the 1960’s hardly featured in dominant, fashionable artistic ideology. These were the days of “spontaneous artistic expression,” art should have the purity and spontaneity of a child’s drawing; and in its practice the notion of craftsmanship and skill, of sound material construction and permanence, was of secondary importance, or even totally absent. 
The interest in art materials and techniques enabled me in 1974 to make on commission an 84 m2 outdoor mural with ethysilicate as a binder by preparing the paint in my studio. It was a technical adventure and most likely had not been done before in the Netherlands. Remarkably, while working high on the scaffold, the queen and her entourage drove by.

1975 -1980
In December 1975 I said goodbye to my part-time teaching job and in January 1976 packed my bag to travel mostly overland to Zambia. I arrived a couple of months later to face the challenge of making a living as an artist in a country which lacked much of the social infrastructure that makes (modern) art work. There was some of it, at the time, like the Art Centre Foundation and its annual exhibition, the art teachers diploma course at the Evelyn Hone College, some venues for temporary exhibitions, some patrons and even some practicing artists! But an awful lot was not there. There was no artist organisation, no proper artist supply shop, no gallery or museum with accessible permanent collections, no art magazines and a whole bunch of other no’s. It was a very small scene, with a very7 shallow history.
The Zambian artists, roughly, could be divided into established and informal artists. The first group had respectable positions in society, was educated, professional, and included artists of both African and European origin. Aquila Simpasa and Henry Tayali were the main African players in this field. At the European side were people like Cynthia Zukas, Bente Lorenz and Gabriel Ellison. The “informal” artists had no or little formal art education, lived in compounds (or in the servant quarters of benefactors in the residential area’s). I started to look for these guys (indeed, they were all men), found a couple of them and set up early 1976 an organisation initially called the Lusaka Artists Group, later renamed the Zambia Artists Association. Founding members, apart from myself, were Fackson Kulya, Patrick Mweemba and David Chibwe, joined later by Style Kunda. I had realised that these artists, and myself as well, in order to get anywhere, had to work together and organise themselves. It worked, not in the least because we had become a prominent productive entity. We got a studio at the Evelyn Hone College, by arrangement of the Art Centre Foundation and support of the College itself. Cynthia Zukas furnished the studio with her etching / lino press. The core members and a varying number of peripheral artists worked in this space until 1981 when it all collapsed. The main line of production we developed was in graphic art, lino and wood cuts in particular. The reason for this choice was twofold: a) availability of (raw) materials and b) broader market access by the very nature of multiple reproduction. Also some painting was done including on walls, and some sculpture made.
"Creation." Lino cut, 1977.
Much of my work in those days was an attempt to combine Western and African visual elements or stylistic features, with varying degrees of success. As of 1977 my main art work was in ceramic mosaic. In that year I was commissioned by the Zambia National Building Society to do a mural on Society House, at Cairo Road. It is worthwhile to detail what happened and led to it. Society House, one of Zambia’s tallest buildings, prominently located at Cairo Road, Lusaka's main road, was under construction and a provision was made for monumental art at the wall behind the ramp leading to the first floor. The commission firstly was given to Aquila Simpasa. Aquila was a brilliant draughtsman and painter, but without experience in monumental work and had no technical understanding of such productions. He was supposed to make a concrete relief and the relief was to be made by using petrol to eat into big polystyrene foam sheets. The space created by petrol was to be filled by concrete, and the concrete was to be attached to the supporting wall. In such a technique you get all these bubbly shapes of the dissolved polystyrene sheets. Predictably this venture had run into the ground. I went to visit Aquila and saw him depressed amidst a heap of these eaten into polystyrene sheets.  Luckily he had gotten this far without fire - Aquila liked to smoke. He soon thereafter left for the UK to be a message man far away from home. When I was approached by the architects of the building for this work I drafted a plan outlining several technical options. I advised against a concrete relief, having consulted a structural engineer, because of its sheer weight and the complications of reliably supporting and mounting it.

5.4 x 10 m2 mosaic mural titled "Home" at
Society House,
Cairo Road Lusaka. 
Completed 1979. 
(Apologies for poor quality photograph).
I favoured a mosaic mural, which, I said, could be made of Zambian raw materials and did not require imported goods. This was a big issue in those days. Foreign exchange (hard currency) was scarce and hard to get. A truly Zambian mosaic it was to be. I had experience working at this scale (the mosaic was to be about 54 m2, smaller than my 84 m2 painted mural in Leeuwarden, Netherlands), but I did not know a thing about pottery and mosaics. Bente Lorenz, a great potter and dear friend, kindly lent me a book in Spanish with earthenware pottery glazes in it, as used by the Moors in Spain a thousand years ago. Luckily the Evelyn Hone Library had a very useful book by Michael Cardew titled Pioneer Pottery – inspired by his work in Nigeria. That book gave me in a general way the technical information I needed. Bente's book gave me the formula's of lead based glazes that could be made using litharge  of the Kabwe zinc & lead mine. Luck or Provenance landed me with a small kiln, good enough to do the experimental work of body and glaze formulation. I produced a draft drawing of about 4.5 m2 and samples of a range of tiles and colours. The architect, contractor and commissioner went for it. To date the mosaic mural is still intact – last time I saw it not a single tile had come off. You don’t see its mostly bright earthy colours very clear as it never gets a wash, and the ceiling above it has not been equipped with electric light to illuminate the imagery, recessed behind the ramp. But from my point of view the work had been done, much of it during great turmoil and misery inflicted by Ian Smith and his supporters on Zambia. It was time to move on.

1987 thesis of Gijsbert Witkamp
 "Seeing Makishi" with lino cut by the author.
Moving on meant moving back to the Netherlands. I went back to school, again as a student, now at the University of Leiden were as of 1984 I also held junior teaching positions. My study focused on anthropology of sub-Sahara Africa and non-Western art. It was difficult at first to re-adjust but I became enticed by the academic environment. I studied art in a cross-cultural perspective but did little design work. I got my MA 1988 – its distinction was earned by my research on makishi in North Western Province of Zambia. By then my art professor Adrian Gerbrands had retired, my outstanding Africa professor Adam Kuper had left Leiden, the ill guided Netherlands government was "restructuring the university" (= spending less money on the highest form of education of the country) and thus blocked me from doing a Ph. D. on an outlandish subject like "Art as Communication." Time to move on! Believe me I did not go into "International Development Cooperation" because of idealism. Academia just did not have a place for me.

1988 – 2008

Batik stamp on cloth
 18 x 20 cm
Moving on meant moving back to Zambia, now as a development worker engaged by the Netherlands Development Organisation SNV to establish a museum and crafts project. I was director of that project until November 1997 – by that time its name was the Choma Museum and Crafts Centre Trust Ltd. I continued to support the CMCC as consultant until April 2008. Relevant for the arts was the establishment of what once was a flourishing Art Gallery as part of the CMCC Museum activities. (At the time of editing, August 2013, I am once again involved in the gallery, trying to resuscitate it). As of around the year 2000 I started to design batik stamps. Most of these were carved by fellow artist Patrick Mweemba. I designed about 150 stamps which were used in the Zamfactor textile workshop of my wife Nchimunya. Apart from that there was little art production. I did do a bit of art related consulting and was a member of the editorial team supporting the production of the book "Art in Zambia" by Gabriel Ellison.

Current Art projects

1. Art on the Net.
In February 2011 I rekindled the idea of setting up a Museum of Modern Zambian Art. I knew, indeed, that chances to establish a physical Zambian art museum were next to zero. But a virtual museum was possible, and, though a virtual museum cannot give you the full sensation of seeing the physical art object, by definition you only see a photographed copy on a screen, it can do all kinds of other things a conventional museum does not do. You can store all sorts of information and make it accessible to a visitor of the site, without any geographical boundaries: it is a MUSEUM WITHOUT WALLS. It’s just amazing. You may have discussions with fellow artists or any interested party accessing the Internet, using a blog or by chatting. You may plug interested parties into information they do not have by linking them to it, and provide links for visitors to artists and other players in the art world. And last but not least, you can promote and sell your art. So that is where I am now, if I am not doing a bit of farming, yes, onions have caught my interest – would it not be great to have a C├ęzanne like still life in celebration of l’onion.
To date Febuary 2016 I have set up an art website that cannot yet truly call itself a visual museum but it is the beginning of one: The Art in Zambia Virtual Museum was launched 8 Feb. 2016. In addition there is this blog and a Art in Zambia public group having its facebook page Art in Zambia. Finally there is my company's website (Z-factor Art Site) and I also initiated and administered the website of the Choma Museum Art Gallery.

2. Back to Art

Pattern generation (3).  2012
Pencil on paper.
"Crossroads." Coloured pencil. 24 x 24 cm. 2012
Early 2012 I was invited to participate in an exhibition organised by Peter Gustavus at the Shazula Cultural Forum, near Monze, Zambia. This exhibition, titled, "Processes," was to inaugurate the home Art Gallery at Shazula cultural forum. That got me into designing again, using pencils and making work of a semi-geometrical nature, sometimes combined with figurative elements, or figurative work with geometric elements - much of this work is a play on the construction of imagery by the mind inside the brain by combining the clearly bounded with the evocative. Gradually as of them my art designing work expanded and now included oil painting. There are several portfolio's with quite a bit of work in it - in 2017 I hope to show it in two exhibitions I am currently preparing.

3. Back to the Choma Museum 2012-13

Women in Art exhibition 2013.
Opening "Graphic Art of Zambia"
exhibition, August 21st 2013
I have been associated to the Choma Museum and Crafts Centre Trust Ltd. for over twenty years. First as founding director (1988 - 1997) and next till April 2008 in all sorts of advisory or consulting capacities. I thought that was enough, perhaps even too much of it. However, when prompted into designing once more, my interest in exhibitions also was rekindled; and this was directed at the Choma Museum Art Gallery which in 2012 was moribund. Since November 2012, for the time being, I am involved in that part of the CMCC operations; supporting exhibitions for 2013. The 2012 X-mass Exhibition of Art and Crafts of the Southern Province was followed by Women in Art: art by or about women. Current is the Graphic Art of Zambia exhibition. I set up the Choma Museum Art Gallery website to get the gallery back into the 21st century and started its electronic newsletter.

4. More on the Net
Part of my return to art was a new look at our company Zamfactor Ltd. and especially its involvement in art and applied art. I made a website for it titled Z-factor ART Site. Apart from this site I have been an active blogger: you find the blogs listed at the right column. Combining the Art in Zambia Blog (this blog) with the Z-factor Art and Services website gets us somewhere in the direction of what a Zambian Visual Art Website could look like and perhaps more work in that direction can be done. In addition I have also set up a site with texts called Texts on Line.