Stary Mwaba: Life on Mars

Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany
06 Mar 2015 - 29 Mar 2015

Stary Mwaba: Life on Mars

Stary Mwaba, Copper, Cobalt and Manganese Cabbage, 2014, installation (detail). Courtesy of the artist

Stary Mwaba (born 1976 in Chingola, Zambia, lives and works in Lusaka, Zambia) holds a grant by KfW Stiftung for the International Studio Programme at Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin and will be finishing his residency by showcasing his current projects.

In his paintings and installations, the artist deals with socio-political issues and develops individual narratives of history, real or imagined, of its visible and invisible traces and its effects on human beings. At Künstlerhaus Bethanien Mwaba shows two series of works which draw connections between historical events and the current situation in his home country Zambia.

His most comprehensive installation Space Project deals with a both utopian and revealing event of Zambian history. By the beginning of the 1960s, by the time of Zambian independence, young physics teacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso from Lusaka expended a great deal of ambition pursuing the dream of sending the first African astronauts, called the ‘Afronauts’, to the moon and Mars. Mwaba’s research on this story at the Zambian state archive is the basis for his multimedia installation which alludes to this anecdote by exhibiting drawings, sketches and paintings. The sculpture DKALO-1 (2015) refers to Nkoloso’s model of a space capsule.

Mwaba’s second project on display is Chinese Cabbage which examines the effects on Zambia of Chinese economic colonization that is evident in the transformation of agriculture and the use of local natural resources such as copper, cobalt and manganese. The artist uses Chinese cabbage as a laboratory-like test device and illustrates the process of transformation by putting three cabbage leaves in three separate plastic cups absorbing a coloured liquid, turning yellow, red and blue – according to the colours of the three Zambian resources – respectively while stems and veins remain white.

A catalogue of the exhibition is available: Nicola Müllerschön and Christoph Tannert (eds.), Stary Mwaba: Life on Mars, including essays by David Elliott and Laura Bohnenblust, Dortmund: Verlag Kettler, 2015.


Opening: Thursday, 5 March 2015, 7pm

Künstlerhaus Bethanien
Kottbusser Strasse 10
10999 Berlin

Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 2pm–7pm

Free admission




Promoting cultural diversity is one of the primary goals of the foundation KfW Stiftung, Frankfurt. Together with the cultural centre Künstlerhaus Bethanien, it has set up an artist-in-residence programme that seeks to stimulate intercultural dialogue by providing up-and coming artists from Latin America, Africa and Asia with the opportunity to spend twelve months in Berlin. Besides encouraging artistic production and critical reflection, the programme facilitates encounters between those working in arts and culture. The infrastructure and the international environment of the cultural centre offer a suitable setting, allowing participants to try out new ideas, to engage in debates and to carry out projects.




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