The exhibition project »Two Lizzards | Sharing One Stomach« at M.Bassy in Hamburg, co-curated by Modzi Arts in Lusaka, gives insight into the lively and diverse contemporary art scene of Zambia by presenting a multidisciplinary group exhibition with works by Lawrence Chikwa, Isaac Kalambata, Mapopa Hussein Manda, Maingaila Muvundika, Agness Buya Yombwe & Lawrence Yombwe.
The six artists involved are rooted within the country, fully working within Zambian narratives. What their diverse oeuvres have in common within the frame of paintings, sculpture, video, installation, and digital art is that they speak to the ideas of sharing within a future of Zambia, reflecting on past social and collectively anchored values, myths, and taboos. Lawrence Yombwe and his wife Agness Buya Yombwe explore indigenous knowledge systems–in particular, that of the Mbusa of the Bemba people and its related tribes of north-eastern Zambia. Mbusa, or “things handed down”, refers to the pottery, sculpture, and wall paintings which are central to the Bemba girls’ initiation and wedding ceremonies. The enigmatic landscape paintings of Lawrence Yombwe integrate encoded symbols functioning as a system of orientation for young men and women on how to respect and love. Agness Buya’s artistic practice and activism is an ongoing investigation process into silenced socio-political and environmental narratives in different societies that continues to question the human condition. The painted collages in mock newspaper style of Mapopa Hussein Manda distinctively position the artist as a socio-political commentator. Similar to Buya Yombwe he uses painted text adding another medial dimension to his works. Words also play a role in the oeuvre of Isaac Kalambata who is blackening out texts and narratives to draw attention to colonial legacies and misrepresentations in Zambian day-to-day politics and laws. Similarly, Lawrence Chikwa often integrates Bibles or other religious books of different language into his works to stimulate a discourse about sovereignty in Zambian heritage. The youngest artist of the group is Maingaila Muvundika who experiments with digital collages of own photographs to cherish social customs in pre-colonial Zambia focusing on collective gain rather than personal interest.
For this exhibition project, M.Bassy and Modzi Arts jointly stepped into the sharing of ideas bringing forth an additional discourse around Institutional collaborations and the question of how the global north and south can share visions, resources and space. M.Bassy has invited Modzi Arts to share its space with this selected group of artists and to further dive into the concept of »Two Lizzards | Sharing One Stomach«. The NGO Modzi Arts is an art Institution in Lusaka founded in 2016 as a space for artistic production, exhibitions, performances, and discourse, as well as lived togetherness. Taonga Julia Kaunda-Kaseka, its founder and director, explains: “The COVID-19 pandemic brought us to a point where we re-thought our approaches towards thinking and living together. We interrogate notions of togetherness with the artists and how they relate to the idea of sharing. How can one give space for existence for others and understand their being in a socially controlled society without losing oneself? Togetherness is also a huge compromise. It’s understanding the perspective of the other and creating one shared understanding. During the corona storm, Modzi Arts brought together artists in weekly cooking, thinking, and eating sessions–one ritual that continues up to today and creates a huge bond around the art space as rather a home for artists to find a piece that is missing within their daily lives. Food in Zambia is a huge part of how we treat each other and looking back within our history, traditions tell us that one cannot welcome someone in the house or space without first offering something to eat or drink.”
The Zambian art historian Dr. Andrew Mulenga states that the contemporary Zambian art scene is an “epitome of the fallen seed (…) largely left to sprout by itself because of the (…) lack of cultivation vis-à-vis support structures, but at its own relaxed pace it has progressed into something uniquely Zambian”. Today the country has a small but vibrant art scene asserting artistic agency. There has been a cultural shift in the Zambian perspective, with many creative actors turning their focus inward to rediscover their cultural heritage, local artist circles and socially engaged art approaches. NGO art spaces as Modzi Arts in Lusaka and the artist run studio Wayi Wayi in Livingstone, founded by Agness Buya Yombwe and her husband Lawrence Yombwe, set a huge focus on local community, environmental sustainability and collective empowerment fostering opportunities for cultural contributions towards an increased self-image of the Zambian art community. Taonga Julia Kaunda-Kaseka states: “Art spaces like Modzi Arts and Wayi Wayi are connectors and negotiators. Togetherness is their core principle. We pay special attention to rituals around togetherness and frame these as a starting point to engage with the collective mind. We deconstruct models of sharing and try to go back in history to find stories that discuss notions of being together. The title of this group exhibition »Two Lizzards | Sharing One Stomach« is emblematic for our curatorial idea of what sharing with the past means to these different artists.”
Lawrence Chikwa (b. 1973 in Chingola, Zambia) is a conceptual artist working in painting, installation and sculpture often combining mixed and found materials, crossing borders, and immersing his artworks with enigmatic life. He studied at the Ecole d’ Art d Valais in Sierre, Switzerland from where he graduated with a MA Fine Art in 2006. In 2014 he participated in the group exhibition The Divine Comedy. Heaven, Hell, Purgatory Revisited by Contemporary African Artists i.a. at Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, curated by Simon Njami. He was the first artist that Modzi Arts exhibited in opening its gallery in Lusaka in 2016. Furthermore, he engages in Bonsecreative Art Expressions and works as independent art lecturer for the Inter Art Studios educative program promoting young Chongwe artists. His works are part of numerous collections as the Royal Central African Museum of Tervuren in Belgium, The Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington, USA and the Museum of Ethnography of Geneva, Switzerland.
Isaac Kalambata (b. 1983 in Lusaka, Zambia) is a multi-disciplinary, self-taught artist whose work explores the ways in which official histories and archives can be incomplete or misleading and how these gaps and silences can perpetuate power imbalances. He seeks to challenge dominant narratives and to uncover alternative stories and perspectives. He uses critical fabulations blending elements of reality and fiction to create new narratives using a range of media including painting and installation. His work also focuses on myths and myth making with particular interest in mythical creatures and legends that have long been a part of Zambia’s oral traditions and folklore. Through his practices he aims to capture the essence and meaning of these myths exploring the relationships between humans, the supernatural world and indigenous knowledge. His works were exhibited i.a. at the National Museum Lusaka in 2018 and at the Choma Museum in 2019. In 2021 he had a research residency at Modzi Arts. And he was awarded by the National Arts Council Ngoma for his oeuvre.
Mapopa Hussein Manda
Mapopa Hussein Manda (b. 1982 in Lusaka, Zambia) is a semi-abstract painter, living and working in Lusaka, whose work focuses mainly on socio-political commentary. He describes his visual language as a mock newspaper style, linking themes based on current social, economic, and environmental affairs in line with political agenda. The artist is experimenting with his role as a contemporary Zambian artist and is not afraid of facing criticism and censorship for his positions. He is self-taught but worked under apprenticeship with the know Zambian artist Stary Mwaba for four years. He is also a member of Extinction Rebellion which is a global environmental movement using nonviolent means to compel governments to tackle causes of climate change. of a sustainable environment where both organic agricultural practices and artistic expression come together in order to propagate a collective, sustainable lifestyle that offers a scientific, experimental as well as creative approach towards contemporary art and organic farming in the era of climate change. In 2020 he founded the project Artfarm at Modzi Arts to further explore the creation of a sustainable environment where both organic agricultural practices and artistic expression come together in order to propagate a collective, sustainable lifestyle that offers a scientific, experimental as well as creative approach towards contemporary art and organic farming in the era of climate change.
Maingaila Muvundika (b. 1999 in Chingola, Zambia) is a visual artist and photographer whose work explores how different demographic elements of a community interact with each other and inform how people navigate being a part of the wider community. Drawing from personal reference and observation, Muvundika’s photographic portraiture quite often integrates staged scenes and costuming. The photo works that the artist is doing with his phone probe into aspects of individuality, fashion, beauty standards, spirituality and belonging inquiring how identity and a sense of self is shaped. Muvundika is also engaged in the art space Modzi Arts.
Agness Buya Yombwe
Agness Buya Yombwe (b. 1966 in Mazabuka, Zambia) is a multi-disciplined artist, a print maker, educator, author, and social activist whose oeuvre challenges the silence on different socio-political and environmental aspects in society. Studying art at Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka obtaining an Arts Teachers Diploma, she is the founder and co-director of Wayi Wayi Art Studio & Gallery in Livingstone. In 2020 she initiated the Wayi Wayi Creatives Village in Livingstone District to provide residency and skills training programs while supporting environmentally sustainable development through green tourism. She has won many awards including an award for Excellence in Visual Arts which was presented to her by African Women and Film Festival in March 2023. Agness Buya Yombwe has participated in numerous national and international exhibitions including: Parliament, a solo exhibition and book launch at Lechwe Trust Gallery in Lusaka in 2023; a group show at World Bank headquarters in Washington DC, USA in 2022/23; Building an Art Bridge between Italy and Zambia at Lusaka National Museum in 2022; NI MZILO / It Is Taboo, a solo exhibition and book launch at the National Gallery in Livingstone which was curated by Taonga Julia Kaunda-Kaseka in 2019; Dialogue at Kunstabanken in Hedmark, Norway in 2016; Dialogue, a solo exhibition and book launch at 37d Gallery, Lusaka in 2015; Social Issues at Livingstone Museum in 2012; at Frame Gallery in Gaborone, Botswana in 2005 as Botswana`s foremost female artists; Art for the Heart at Africa Centre in London, UK in 1997 and at Edvard Munch Atelier in Oslo, Norway in 1995. She has also undertaken prestigious studio residences at the Edvard Munch in Oslo, Norway in 1995 and at the McColl Centre for Visual Arts in North Carolina, USA in 2002. So far Agness Buya Yombwe has published three publications: Parliament in 2023, Kudumbisiana (Dialogue) in 2015 and Ni Mzilo (It Is Taboo) in 2019. Next to her husband she has been exchanging with Modzi Arts as mentors in their late Afro Ndi Luso research residency. Her works of art, including prints, paintings, and sculptures are in both public and private collections in Zambia and abroad.
Lawrence Yombwe (b. 1956 in Kalulushi, Zambia) is considered a master of Zambian painting. As his wife Agness Buya Yombwe, with whom he founded Wayi Wayi Art Studio & Gallery in Livingstone in 2007, he is also an art educator and mentor who has had a significant impact on Zambia's younger art scene. He studied for an advanced certificate in Fine Art from Croydon College, UK and later attended Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka obtaining an Arts Teachers Diploma in 1990. He participated in an arts administration course in the USA before establishing the documentation center at the Henry Tayali Gallery in Lusaka, where he also served as VAC vice-president. In 2014, he was invited by the National Arts Council of Zambia to curate the first group exhibition at the National Art Gallery in Livingstone. He has won several prizes, including Zambia’s Ngoma Award, and participated in numerous international exhibitions and workshops. Most of his works are themed around the Mbusa imagery of the Bemba tribe of Northern Province which he incorporates in an idiosyncratic, mystic style. Using their cryptic nature, he also addresses topics which are avoided by many in society as polygamy and homosexuality–the latter of which is illegal by Zambian law.
Taonga Julia Kaunda-Kaseka
Taonga Julia Kaunda-Kaseka (b. 1983) grew up in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, formerly Mfuwe National Park, surrounded by nature and wilderness. Taonga is the founder, director & curator of Modzi Arts. She is not just set to music and visual arts but rides on rethinking how we approach “art” within the African context, how museums, ancient objects, modern art and contemporary artists continue to experiment African methodologies, myths and stories. She surrounds her daily life with artists, chiefs, curators, and thinkers of art. Her focus on curating has been within the borders of the African continent on different platforms like FNB Art Joburg were she regularly presents Modzi Arts Gallery experimenting with different Zambian artists ideas. She has worked with Agness Buya Yombwe, Nomes Dee, Banji Chona, Mapopa Hussine Manda from 2019 to 2023, Turn2 Labs Dakar with Kenu Lab’Oratoire des imaginaires and Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation). She co-curated the exhibition And Counting realized in 2019 at Johannesburg Art Gallery thematizing institutional archives and collections featuring works of Aaron Samuel Mulenga (Zambia), Daut Makala (Zambia), David Koloane (SA), Ernest Cole (SA), Gladys Kalichini (Zambia), Henry Tayali (Zambia), Nicholas Hlobo (SA), Nyaniso Dzedze (SA), Ranjith Kally (SA), Sam Nhlengethwa (SA), Stary Mwaba (Zambia), Turiya Magadlela (SA), Wesley Hlongwane (SA). Furthermore, she was co-curator of Ulemu, a special project around the approaches into African ancestral interpretation within Congo Biennale in 2022 in the framework of Afro Ndi Luso research featuring works of Aaron Samuel Mulenga (Zambia) & Joseph Kasau (Congo DR). She is working on building partnerships with House of Chiefs in Zambia, intending to connect young traditional artists with the contemporary discourse, on restoring the music archive of Zamrock with the band W.I.T.C.H | We Intend to Cause Havoc & Rikki Llilonga and the Creative South Network.
Modzi Arts speaks of collaboration/sharing as a metaphor towards diverse ways of living. Modzi is an art institution revolving around Lusaka city in Zambia. With a strong interest in sharing as a point of engagement and experience, the NGO connects people from a multidisciplinary view–to exchange, experiment, and present bodies of work in the fields of visual arts, music, performance, research, and curatorial practice. Modzi was established in 2016 with the vision of providing a unified space for knowledge exchange, celebration, experimentation, engagement, and dialogue within the arts. Modzi Arts is governed by a board of six people all supporting voluntary strategic direction. As an art institution it has received its core funding from Pro Helvetia Johannesburg financed by the Swiss Development Agency and the Sound Connect Fund managed by Music in Zambia.
Modzi strive to improve the self-image of the Zambian art community by improving the quality of Zambian art production in general, and the livelihoods of marginalised artists specifically, with a focus on enhancing artistic development amongst women and youth. Part of that process is highlighting homegrown success stories, particularly through its Zamrock residencies: The Zamrock Museum program connects young gallerists and artist managements with legends from Zambia's rich musical bedrock, and the Rackless Kazi program fosters connections between generations of African women DJs. Along with our Sukula programs focusing on community-led workshops (such as woodworking, printmaking, Djing, photography, cooking etc.), our Modzi AIR and Afro Ndi Luso research residencies, our regular gallery exhibitions, and with our strong volunteer base, Modzi Arts is helping usher in a new era of Zambian arts and culture. The NGO has partnerships with art institutions in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Harare in Zimbabwe, and Lubumbashi in the DR Congo, Mozambique, South Africa, UK, Senegal, Malawi, Angola, Italy, and Germany.
Opening with Emanuel "Jagari" Chanda, co-founder and lead vocalist from the the legendary Zamrock band W.I.T.C.H. (an acronym for "We Intend To Cause Havoc") in conversation with Lubi Barre, curator and writer of poetry and short stories.
Wednesday, 15.11.2023, 8 pm –The event is fully booked.
Please reserve via: firstname.lastname@example.org
W.I.T.CH. is a Zamrock band formed in the 1970s and is widely seen as the most popular Zambian band of that era. They will perform at KNUST, Hamburg on 16.11.2023 at 9 pm. Don´t miss it!
M.Bassy e.V., Schlüterstraße 80, 20146 Hamburg
Opening hours during the exhibition: Thu – Sun, 2 – 6pm
Our special thanks go to Klaus Hartmann, who initiated the project and supported us actively in its realization as well as to Taonga Julia Kaunda-Kaseka, co-curator of the exhibition and director of Modzi Arts, Lusaka, and furthermore, to Agness Buya Yombwe, the co-founder of Wayi Wayi Art Studio & Gallery, Livingstone. The exhibition is funded by the Liebelt-Stiftung, Hamburg as well as by the Ministry of Culture and Media, Hamburg.