You are currently viewing Chibesa Mubanga: Prolific self-taught artist

Chibesa Mubanga: Prolific self-taught artist

SUNDAY Chibesa Mubanga is one of the self-taught artists to emerge on the Zambian art scene in the mid-1980s.
Perhaps, like the common trend of artists moving to the big cities to establish their careers, Chibesa shifted to Lusaka in 1984 soon after completing his form three at Kenneth Kaunda Secondary School in Chinsali.
Since then, the artist has made impressive footprints as a painter and sculptor.
Chibesa’s art career was initially influenced by his elder brothers Edward and Laston who were already based in Lusaka and had established their solo art careers.
Apart from family influence, the upcoming artist was also inspired by the late Chisenga Nyendwa, who was fondly referred to as ‘Master’ by novices owing to his prolific pedigree of wildlife painting. Nyendwa was the father of artist Willie Chisenga who has equally left an admirable legacy of wildlife paintings.
Like his mentors, Chibesa launched his art career as a wildlife painter.
Having spent his childhood in Mpumba village in Mpika and Folotiya village in Chinsali, the environment provided him an opportunity to interface with nature and acquire knowledge about wildlife. The rural landscape offered him fertile ground to nourish his imagination for environmental drawings.
In his works, Chibesa literally takes the viewer into the wild, with his intricate depiction of nature.
But after consolidating his studio practice and widening imaginative scope, he digressed from wildlife paintings and ventured into village canvases.
The prolific artist vividly depicts village life with the insaka (a meeting place), creatively outlined in the centre of the community.
Chibesa’s typical village scenery would have one or two insakas; women cooking in a shelter; craftsmen at work with some imbibing something; and girls ferrying water from the river. His paintings also have some chickens wandering around or a dog lying somewhere in the village.
Chibesa’s village always has intriguing details; the more you look, the more the story unfolds.
His works like a hybrid between Stephen Kapata’s naïve paintings and realistic works of Poto Kabwe. The unique hybrid is Chibesa’s own trademark.
With time, the artist’s scope of work has grown to encompass scrap metal creations, including those made from broken motor vehicle parts.
Chibesa recently made a metal sculpture dubbed “CD4 Count Machine”, using a motor vehicle carburettor and other automobile parts.
He says he was inspired by the originator of the CD4 count gadget, which is used to determine the defence mechanism in people living with HIV and AIDS.
Over the years, Chibesa has grown from an amateur painter to a versatile artist. However, he bemoans that artworks’ sales have deteriorated compared to the 1980s and 1990s when the business was lucrative.
He recounts that during the Meridian BIAO Bank era, artists made a lot of money because the bank appreciated fine arts.
But his most memorable earnings from art came when he took part in an exhibition at the American embassy alongside his two brothers, Dean Nsabashi and Maurice Musonda.
The artists sold most of their works in the exhibition and the few that remained were bought off by a single collector.
Chibesa now works quietly in a shared studio in Mandevu township in Lusaka.