08 February, 2016

Art in Zambia Virtual Museum under Construction

Text and illustrations by Bert Witkamp
First uploaded: 8 February 2016
Updated: 11 February 2016

Visitors can’t get in a physical museum under construction. On the web you can!

Detail of drawing by Aquila Simpasse.
Taking a look is easy: click here!

Five years ago, in February 2011, I started this Art in Zambia blog to rouse interest in the creation of a virtual museum of art in Zambia. The first post was titled Virtual Museum of Zambian Art and was followed by others on the same subject.
The rationale of this initiative was to make up for the lack of a physical museum of art in Zambia and to exploit the specific advantages of the Internet to do things conventional museums in Zambia don’t do or, if so, only in a small way. Such as publicly accessible information management and interaction with interested relevant parties in programme development, interactive educational facilities, virtual tours or information generation and sharing.
Struggling with web site building software in 2011.......
I received some encouraging responses, including from major players, but no substantial support. I did dig into the intransigent matter of website software and internet technology – also because I wanted to publish my own work in writing and imagery construction on The Net. My first attempt was with Drupal; open source software in which you design on your computer, save and next upload. The protocols were too complicated for me. Next I tried WordPress. Easier but geared towards designing a blog rather than a website. Then someone – well, not just someone: outstanding Zambian-Australian ceramist Njalikwa Chongwe - pointed me to Weebly, a simple programme basically meant for small sites. I stepped in and it worked. I used it for my own productions and to publicize the art exhibitions I was organizing for the Choma Museum during 2012 and 2013. In this programme you design online – meaning you need have to have reasonably fast, reliable and affordable internet. The preparatory work you can do as documents that you save as usual and copy and paste when online at the Weebly site.

Weebly actually is not the right programme for something as complex as a museum site. But after 5 years of stagnation something had to be done. Even if only as a token, a symbol, a declaration of intent and appetizer. The start of something which when growing can migrate to a better suited environment, like a seedling to an orchard. You want to get a taste of the sort of thing it is going to be? GET-IN THE PICTURE!

P.S. For those who think art on the internet is a waste of time: the Art in Zambia blog since its inception in February 2011 till February 2016 has been viewed over 13,000 times.

P.P.S. How many art lovers have seen more than five works of Aquila Simpasse? Yet he was a one of the first major post Independence Zambian artists, inaugurating modern art in this country. His work now is scattered but easily could be brought together on the virtual museum site for public exhibition and documentation.