In this post a
summary of the Zambian Art Website project: What has been done and what needs
to be done.
initiated: 8 September 2012
|Fig. 1. Website-in-design in computer.|
February 2011 I launched the idea for the establishment of a virtual museum of
Zambian Art. The idea was initially propagated by sending the project idea as
an e-mail attachment to artists and art related institutions or organisations
in Zambia. Pending the establishment of a website I created a blog, some sort
of mini website, titled ZamArt Blog at http://zamart.blogspot.com.
The blog served to gauge interest in the project, to keep interested parties
updated and to offer a glimpse of what an actual website could do. To show what
a real Zamart website would be like I had to twist the blog format a little as
blogs are not really constructed to function like websites. Blogs are designed
as a chronological series of posts concerning a theme or activity. You’ll find
the initial ideas and the subsequent developments by linking to the ZamArt
2 Main developments since launch of idea
The idea was welcomed
by the Visual Art Council of Zambia (VAC) and the National Museums Board (NMB) through
its Executive Secretary Mr F. Mizinga. The Choma Museum and Crafts Centre is
willing to cooperate with the project. A number of prominent artists also
supported the idea and are interested in it.
downloaded a website designing programme (Drupal 7) and created a basic site
layout. I also downloaded programmes required for local hosting and uploading
the site-in-design to an Internet Server Provider (ISP). I secured a domain named
zamart.org and subscribed to an ISP. The website address (URL) would thus be
is not yet a live link as to date the website design has not been uploaded and
activated. I find the business of uploading from my computer to the ISP too
complicated and am in need of an experienced person to hold my hand/keyboard to
successfully and confidently launch the site.
idea was initially formulated as the establishment of a virtual museum. And
indeed the site should be all that a virtual
art museum can be. In terms of functionality the site also is to function
as an Art shop (having art and art
related items for sale) and as a platform
of communication for the presentation and exchange of information and ideas
– as only an IT means of communication can be.
a) The average number of visitors (“views”) over
a one year period was about 60 monthly; this without major promotional efforts.
A proper website having a blog, face book page, and inclusion in search engines
is likely to have a good number of viewers worldwide – certainly hundreds each
b) Zambian artists in large majority underutilise
the Internet & associated services. Yet the Internet is an excellent way of
showcasing yourself, your activities and projects; it offers a direct way for
interested parties to contact you and interact with you; and, of enables access
to unimaginable amounts of information.
c) The Internet offers a superior way of social
networking; a website thus becomes the unifying knot in an immensely varied,
global network of interested parties.
d) Direct online sales of art, applied art or
crafts generally are not spectacular because a serious buyer as a rule wants to
see the physical work. But a website, blog or facebook page is a very good
marketing tool to facilitate and enhance sales.
primary purpose of the project is to develop, establish and sustain a website
of Zambian modern art. The site is to be:
A virtual art museum.
Its functions essentially are to gather, store and make accessible art and art
related information (functions conventionally labelled collection acquisition, documentation,
preservation and presentation); to educate (by means of especially designed
“documents”, including interactive programmes, cd-rom and dvd;
Art Gallery &
shop; offering on line shopping and links to other art and art related sales
outlets including studio’s of artists and galleries.
exchange of information and idea’s; such as a notice board for events and a
forum for discussion on topics and themes (for example by an associated blog).
secondary purpose is to promote the establishment of a (national) museum of
modern Zambian art. A virtual museum often can provide better and wider access
to information than a physical museum. But it cannot replace the experience of
immediate perception of a work of art.
project serves to contribute to the development of the Zambian art world using
internet technologies. More specifically the project is to:
Document the Zambian
access to documented information about Zambian art, artists, art organisations
and art world generally. This includes virtual art tours showing, for example,
particular collections, the work of a specific artist, of a specific period or
parties to purchase Zambian art and contribute to income for artists and art
owners or dealers through promotion and the sale of the Zambian art.
about Zambian art.
Educate by means of
special programmes including cd-roms and dvd’s.
Act as a notice board
/ news room; presenting art related information.
realisation of a physical museum of modern Zambian art.
Generate funds to
4. Justification and sense
is relevant, in this regard, to note that there is no physical museum of
(visual) art in Zambia to date. To some extent the Zambian Art Website may make
up for this lacuna, and even fulfil certain functions better than a physical
museum conventionally does. Neither do we have functioning websites dedicated
to Zambian art. The project therefore is not duplicating an existing effort.
5. Development options and strategies
5.1 Flexibility is beautiful
There are different
ways to development the Zambian Art Internet Project. You can do something very
simple, on a shoestring budget, almost as a hobby, without an organisation. On
the other hand you can go for a fully developed project, with a substantial
budget, an office, vehicle, employees &c. The minimalist approach,
predictably, has severely limited functionality. The maximalist approach
predictably requires substantial external funding and is likely to run into
preference is to start small, show what you are worth and take it from there;
using options and possibilities at hand as these present themselves. Key in the
design of this development trajectory is flexibility.
The project, for example, can be located any place provided there is a
reasonable internet connection nearby. This by now is the case anywhere with
mobile phone network – though these connections cost some money. It is nice to
have a state of the art computer and camera dedicated to the project, but for
purposes of internet documentation a simple digital camera and normal laptop
will do. The main cost by far is in labour. Labour, in this case professional
expertise, should not be employed but contracted on a free lance basis for
specific assignments. This prevents common problems of scaling down when funds
are no longer available, or the protracted employment of people not having
enough to do, or having proven themselves incapable. Funding proposals,
therefore should be very focused and targeted, e.g., serving project components
like the creation of a bibliography of Zambia art related texts and
publications; collecting life histories of artists; photographing and
documenting art work; writing the history of art related institutions &c.
5.2 Documentation and research
heart and foundation of any museum is a documented collection. From there other
functions follow: preservation and conservation, research and education,
exhibition and dissemination of information. The issue of documentation in our
case takes a special importance due to the lack of a physical art museum and
the scarcity of genuine academic research. There also is increasingly an
element of urgency as artists die or institutions and organisations cease to
exist or change. Note for example that we do not have documented life histories
of Henri Tayali, Aquila Simpasse or Bente Lorenz; though each of these
outstanding artists has made major impact on the Zambian art world.
necessary art historical and social research could perhaps offer an opportunity
to cooperate with universities; for example by facilitating MA and PhD research
of art in Zambia.
5.3 Organisational modalities
noted above that the project can be done almost like a private hobby or as a
fully fledged enterprise probably having NGO status; and all kinds of things in
the work done is a personal initiative, under auspices of my company Zamfactor
Ltd. The resources of the company at the moment are too limited to ensure
speedy development of what basically is a public service. One option is to
retain this position but get external support in – this is possible but not
likely to meet the needs of extended documentation and research as mentioned
option is to enter into a cooperative agreement with a relevant organisation or
institution; the project retaining a semi-autonomous status. This avenue is
likely to enhance chances of substantial external support.
that this is an innovative project which may attract substantial support by
international cultural organisations and may enhance the standing and
functionality of the Zambian cooperating partner.
5.4 Income generating modalities and
project has to be implemented such that it can sustain itself “in a basic
operating mode” by its own resources. This requires in-built income generating
activities as by sponsorship and commercial activities; and flexibility of
operations tuning income to expenses and vice versa as argued above. In the
utmost minimum scenario the entire project requires only 1 person and 1
computer; active or in “standby mode”!
6 Pro’s, Contra’s and
The project to some
degree makes up for the current lack of a Zambian national art museum or
The cost of managing
the site is only a fraction of the cost of running a physical museum. Once
established site maintenance is relatively cheap.
Global promotion of
Zambian art, independent of location of the visitor.
easy to add on, change or to remove.
Development and site
servicing can be done from any place having adequate connection.
interactive programmes and communication.
extending art education (in schools, or at home privately, tuned in towards
need of specific groups &c.).
possibilities of participation and involvement by interested parties.
Project is in line
with future developments and is likely to work better as IT services improve,
also in Zambia.
10.Is innovative, and
hence may attract specific forms of support.
are or might be:
obstructs full use of facility. This is a crucial issue. It may be necessary to
have a “light” version. This disadvantage shall gradually decrease in
importance as genuine broadband becomes more wide spread and affordable.
The project requires
constant update of site content and management. There is a common danger of lax
Competent and dedicated
Public support to get
the project to work. One possibility is to apply to development organisations
that assign retired professionals to projects, NGO’s or companies for short
7 The way forward
personal preference is to link the project to an organisation working in the
field of art and/or culture. The reason is practical: it makes it easier to
apply for necessary external support. Initial external support is short term
technical assistance concerning web site design and launching. It, furthermore,
would help to have some money to carry the project to the point of being
operational in a basic way. That position should be the springboard for further
project development. Phase II development requires professionals with:
curatorial skills (collecting and processing data and information).
write/produce documents (texts, static imagery, video, power point, or other that can be uploaded to
the site and/or used in cd-rom or video).
Computer and IT skills to upload documents, service the
website, produce cd-rom’s and dvd’s., and assist in the design of interactive
including administrative and financial abilities.
As noted above, most
professional services should/could be accessed on an ad hoc basis; save for the
project manager as there must be one person who is responsible all the time.
But the position is not necessarily full time. One may assume, furthermore,
that one person may have several different skills and therefore be multi
author of this text and initiator of this project has worked in Zambia as an
artist; artist’s organiser; anthropological researcher of art; museum and
crafts project manager; international development expert; and consultant for
NGO’s in museum and crafts development, marketing and income generation.