13 December, 2012

Choma Museum X-mass Arts & Crafts Exhibition (2)

The 2012 X-mass exhibition of Arts and Crafts of the Southern Province of Zambia opened December 1st and runs till the end of January 2013. The previous post reported the opening of the exhibition; this sequel is about the art work on display.

 Agnes Mbuya Yombwe (left) submitted intriguing wall hangings made out of painted seed pods and rope; connection tradition with contemporary expression.

Her husband Lawrence Yombwe (right) put up a series of miniature paintings. The imagery is stylized, simultaneously real and unreal, creating a sensation of the of the surrealistic and mystical.

Agnes and Lawrence’s work can be seen at their Wayi Wayi Art Gallery at Livingstone, where they also live.

Patrick Mweemba (left) displays his graphic work (lino cuts) and a wood sculpture. His work can be seen at the gallery section of the Tazimani Crafts Centre located about 12 km out of Choma towards Lusaka on the Great North Road. Patrick’s company is Chisungu Graphics. He lives at a farm in nearby Harmony Settlement. Much of his work is inspired by daily life scenes.

Simon Chungu (right) is a Choma resident. He is mostly known for his textile collages, some of which are remarkably evocative. At this exhibition he also shows two dimensional imagery of beadwork.

Sylvia Mwambo (left) is a painter living in Livingstone, currently quite busy with her newborn child and her work at the provincial office of cultural services. This one of her best known paintings.

Bert Witkamp (right) shows a number of mostly older linocuts and new colour pencil drawings. Bert lives at Choma where he also has his office and studio. 
He and his wife Nchimunya own and manage their company Zamfactor Ltd.

Peter Gustavus shows his well known brightly coloured narrative imagery that, so he wishes, needs to be interrogated by the viewer. The viewer thus needs to be provoked into actual sight-seeing. Imagery, he believes, is not just for the eye; it also is food for thought.
Peter and his wife Namo operate Shazula Cultural Forum, which since Sunday December 9, 2012 also has a home art gallery.

The Kalcho group of artists are water colourists, all women; some are good amateurs, others have become professionals and sell work nationwide. Kalcho derives from Kalomo and Choma, the districts in which the members of the group live. The group mostly paints landscapes and wild life scenes. 
On the photo: Agnes Mbuya Yombwe taking in the imagery.

The exhibition runs through December 2012 and February 2013. The Choma Museum is open daily from 0.900 to 17.00 hrs.

12 December, 2012

Choma Museum X-mass Art & Crafts Exhibition (1)

The 2012 X-mass exhibition of Arts and Crafts of the Southern Province of Zambia opened December 1st around noon. Director Mwimanji Chellah spoke the welcoming words, artist/organiser Bert Witkamp recounted how the exhibition came into being and Flexon Mizinga, Executive Secretary of the National Museums Board of Zambia officiated.

Photo 1. The Choma Museum Art Gallery.
It has been some time since the Choma Museum hosted an art exhibition of national interest. Bert Witkamp took the initiative for this one and found fellow artists of the Southern Province willing to support and contribute. Agnes and Lawrence Yombwe, Sylvia Mwambo, Simon Chungu and Patrick Mweemba all submitted work. So did the Kalcho group of watercolour artists, which includes nationally know Eva Middleton. In addition crafts and applied art were on display created by Agnes Yombwe (earrings and bangles), Nchimunya Mweemba Witkamp (batiks and tie & dye), Tazimani Crafts Centre (traditional crafts of the Southern Province), Esnart Han'goma Mweemba (jewelry) and the Malambo Women’s Club (textiles).

Photo 2. Tazimani stand of traditional crafts.

The exhibition not only showcases the artists, artisans and their work; it also once more puts the Choma Museum and Crafts Centre Trust Ltd. in the limelight. The strategic importance of the CMCC, as Mr Mizinga observed, has increased now that Choma has been designated as the provincial headquarters of the Southern province.

Photo 3. Kalcho artists and stand.
On display are a large variety of objects ranging from the practical to the decorative or perhaps, for some, the incomprehensible. The latter qualification  might be applied to some art works. The opening, however, did amply provide for direct interaction between viewers and artists; and this gave rise to some lively discussions.

Photo 3. Batiks by Nchimunya Mweemba.

The exhibition underscores the importance of the Southern Province in the visual arts, applied arts and crafts. It also, for the occasion, allows the visitor to purchase extraordinary X-mass gifts.

Photo 4. Jewelry by Agnes Yombwe

The exhibition runs through December 2012 and January 2013. The Choma Museum is open daily from 0.900 to 17.00 hrs.

Sequel to this post is about the artists and the art work on display.

SHAZULA IN PROCESS - Opening Exhibition

The exhibition “Processes” opened 9 December 2012 at Shazula Cultural Forum. Shazula, owned and managed by artist Peter Gustavus and his wife Namo, offers acculturation courses and promotes cultural tourism. The exhibition successfully inaugurated the use of the facility as an art gallery.

The multi-cultural character of Shazula is reflected in the nationalities and backgrounds of the participating artists. Peter himself originates from Germany, so does Rosa Theresa Harter; Patrick and Esnart Mweemba are Zambians of the Southern Province; Bert Witkamp was born in the Netherlands and Barbara Lechner-Chileshe is Austrian. 

Andrew Mulenga, art journalist of The Post, officiating at the opening of the  exhibition.

The work on display, united by the common theme “processes,” also shows a considerable variety. Patrick Mweemba shows prints about printmaking, Peter Gustavus has on display what could be called vivid narrative imagery, Bert Witkamp shows older figurative oil paintings and recent geometric design  on pattern generation; Esnart Han’goma Mweembe shows figurative graphic art and a mixed media painting, and Barbara Lechner displays both narrative and non-figurative imagery. A pleasant outcome of this diversity is that visitors will always find something of their liking and something they dislike, adding interest to the visit and giving them something to talk about.

Photo 2. Seeds of Thought by Peter Gustavus

Discussion of matters of public interest is one of Peter’s predilections – he believes that exhibitions have missions. That believe is physically demonstrated by his “Seeds of Thought” – a collection of stimulating or provoking statements written on the pods of the flamboyant.

Barbara manages and supports Malaikha, a school for handicapped children. The work of one of her deaf pupils, Orment, is on display showing the discovery of image making by a novice. Barbara also did most of the work of getting a very nice and informative catalog published. 

Photo 3. Opening of the exhibition.

The opening itself was a pleasant and amiable affair; not only were the pictures good, so was the food, the drinks and the company. And last but not least, with some surprisingly good sales!

Shazula, to my knowledge, is the third Art Gallery of Southern Province. The Choma Museum Art Gallery is the oldest (established in 1993). Agnes and Lawrence Yombwe run a fine gallery named Wayi Wayi in Livingstone. Shazula, located off road between Monze and Mazabuka, is the latest. It is worth a visit!

20 November, 2012

Invitation Choma Museum 2012 X-mass Exhibition

Below the invitation by e-mail as processed by Blogger.
to the opening of the 2012 X-MASS EXHIBITION


Mr Flexon Mizinga
Executive Secretary of the National Museums Board
shall open the exhibition

The Choma Museum and Crafts Centre Trust Ltd.

Saturday, 1 December 2012 @ 11.00 hrs

The exhibition runs from 1 December 2012 through January 2013


Malambo Women’s Club, Agnes Mbuya Yombwe, Esnart Han’goma Mweemba, Sylvia Mwando, Kalcho water colour artists, Nchimunya Mweemba Witkamp, Eva Middleton, Simon Chungu, Bert Witkamp, Lawrence Yombwe, Jonathan Leya, Peter Gustavus, Patrick Mweemba, Waiwai Art Gallery, Tazimani Crafts Centre, Chisungu Graphics, Zam­factor Ltd, Shazula Cultural Forum, Dream Graphics.

Exhibition realised by the Choma Museum, Zamfactor Ltd. & Dream Graphics
Inquiries: zfactor@zamtel.zm

08 November, 2012


The preparations for the 2012 X-mass exhibition at the Choma Museum and Crafts Centre Trust Ltd. are well under way. The exhibition is scheduled to open Saturday December 1st at 12.30. On display shall be art, applied art & crafts of or in the Southern Province of Zambia. An excellent opportunity to see what the province has to offer artistically & get your X-mass gifts sorted out!

Participating artists and organisations to date are, in random order:
 Eva Middleton                          – water colours     
          & Kalcho artists                        - water colours     
          Jonathan Leya                          - graphics, T-shirts
          Patrick Mweemba                      – graphics and sculpture
          Esnart Han’goma Mweemba        – jewelry and Tonga crafts
          Nchimunya Mweemba Witkamp   – batik and tie & dye
          Peter Gustavus                         - water colours
          Bert Witkamp                           - graphics, drawings
          Simon Chungu                          - textile collage
          Agnes Mbuya                            - graphics, paintings
          Laurence Yombwe                     - painting
          Malambo Women’s Club             - textiles
          Sylvia Mwando                          - painting

Plan is to make the opening a genuinely pleasant event with plenty drinks, snacks & ample time for social interaction. And, of course, for those wanting to do so, purchase excellent X-mass gifts of the Southern Province of Zambia!

The exhibition presents not only an opportunity for the artists and their organisations or companies to showcase themselves; it also once again puts the Art Gallery of the CMCC in the limelight. The Gallery, now some 20 years in existence, at numerous occasions has presented and promoted the arts and crafts of the Southern Province of Zambia. Jonathan Leya, now as in the past, shall help in designing and mounting the exhibition. Bert Witkamp, founding and former Director of the CMCC, coordinates the event on behalf of the participating artists and artisans. Peggy Himoonde coordinates on behalf of the Choma Museum under the watchful eye of its E.D., Mwimanji Chellah.

The exhibition is important for the CMCC – usually simply called the Choma Museum. The Museum is in dire need of an inspiring boost now that its strategic importance as a provincial cultural institution has been elevated by the promotion of Choma to be(come) the provincial headquarters. This turn of events opens up unexpected possibilities of a new future for the institution.

This message was posted on the ZamArt Blog, at http://zamart.blogspot.com; a Blog set up to promote use of the Internet in Zambian Art.

08 September, 2012


In this post a summary of the Zambian Art Website project: What has been done and what needs to be done.

By Bert Witkamp*

Text initiated: 8 September 2012

Fig. 1. Website-in-design in computer.

1.       History and background

In 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 Blog.

2       Main developments since launch of idea 

2.1     Support in Zambia

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.

2.2     Technical progress

I 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 http://www.zamart.org. Unfortunately www.zamart.org 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.

2.3     Concept development

The 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.

2.4     Findings

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 month.

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.

2.     Purpose of project

The primary purpose of the project is to develop, establish and sustain a website of Zambian modern art. The site is to be:

1.   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;
2.   Art Gallery & shop; offering on line shopping and links to other art and art related sales outlets including studio’s of artists and galleries.
3.   Presentation and 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).

A 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.

3.  Objectives

The project serves to contribute to the development of the Zambian art world using internet technologies. More specifically the project is to:
1.   Document the Zambian art world.
2.   Provide worldwide 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 place.
3.   Enable interested 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.
4.   Stimulate discussion about Zambian art.
5.   Educate by means of special programmes including cd-roms and dvd’s.
6.   Act as a notice board / news room; presenting art related information.
7.   Promote the realisation of a physical museum of modern Zambian art.
8.   Generate funds to sustain itself.

4.      Justification and sense

It 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 sustainability problems.

My 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

The 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.

The 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

I 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 between.

Presently 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 above.

Another 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.

Note 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 sustainability

The 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 Conditions
1.   The project to some degree makes up for the current lack of a Zambian national art museum or gallery.
2.   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.
3.   Global promotion of Zambian art, independent of location of the visitor.
4.   Flexible project: easy to add on, change or to remove.
5.   Development and site servicing can be done from any place having adequate connection.
6.   Possibility of interactive programmes and communication.
7.   Possibility of extending art education (in schools, or at home privately, tuned in towards need of specific groups &c.).
8.   Unprecedented possibilities of participation and involvement by interested parties.
9.   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. 

Disadvantages are or might be:
1.     Slow transmission 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.
2.   The project requires constant update of site content and management. There is a common danger of lax site management. 

1.   Competent and dedicated staff.
2.   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 term assistance.

7       The way forward
My 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:

IT curatorial skills (collecting and processing data and information).
Skills to 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 programme’s.
Management skills, 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 functional.


*    The 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.