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.
Today Zambia 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 legacy, 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, Modzis founder and director, explains: “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.”
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