Art Yak with CHANDA MWENYA
CONCEPTUAL artist Alexis Phiriâ€™s short-lived art performance staged at Supreme Court grounds in Lusaka a fortnight ago is a classic example of the art of activism.
It may have looked funny, but you have to understand the concept behind.
Alexis used the widespread peace symbol which was initially designed for the 1950â€™s nuclear disarmament campaign as a backdrop for his performance and inscribed it with a message â€œPeace after Electionsâ€.
He suspended around his neck a chitenge made from two halves of the two main political parties â€“ the Patriotic Front (PF) and United Party for National Development (UPND) regalia.
During his performance, Alexis intended to release 10 doves but his stunt was abruptly interrupted by police who told him that his presence at Supreme Court was not welcome.
But with sense of resolve, the artist hurriedly released the birds amid police intrusion.
Alexis said the act of releasing the doves was a metaphor to send peace and love through the 10 provinces in t h e country.
â€œWe need to promote peace for the sake of the future generation. I am not partisan,â€ the seemingly agitated Alexis said before he was forced out of the premises.
Alexis could not have chosen a better place than the Supreme Court grounds where the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) hearing of the presidential petition was taking place.
At that time, the attention of the general public and the media was solely focused on the ConCourt.
The Supreme Court premises provided a fertile ground for Alexis to stage his performance and its dramatic end.
And the Zambia Open University fine art lecturer and veteran artist William Miko has observed that Alexisâ€™ performance was successful because it provoked a reaction.
â€œThe harassment the artist experienced at the hands of the police completed the performance,â€ Miko said.
But this is not the first time Alexis is provoking society with aesthetic performance.
The avant-garde artist has been consistent with his message of peace and unity through creative stunts.
In 1986, Alexis along with Kelly Chubili, late Jowie Mwiinga and Fred Mushimbalume as young journalism students from Evelyn Hone College, walked 386 kilometres from Kitwe to Lusaka via Ndola to commemorate the Soweto uprising.
In 1976, during apartheid in South Africa, some 20,000 black students from Soweto protested the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools.
The protesting students were met with fierce police who gunned down 176 of the students in one of apartheid South Africaâ€™s worst massacres.
Alexis and the trio used their Soweto uprising walk to also champion the call to abolish apartheid and call for the release of incarcerated Nelson Mandela.
The quartet started their walk from Kitweâ€™s Mposa Mabwe Statue to Lusakaâ€™s Freedom Statue where they were received by a waiting crowd.
â€œThe city literally came to a standstill when we arrived in Lusaka. We were received to a heroâ€™s welcome; African National Congress members such Oliver Thambo and Thabo Mbeki where among the prominent South Africans exiled in Zambia who received us,â€ Alexis recounted.
Alexis finds art as a fertile platform to speak his mind adding that his call for peace and unity goes beyond the Zambian border.
Indeed art is an effective tool for communication. Performance art in particular can be fascinating and usually never short of drama.
Art Yak with CHANDA MWENYA