ART YAK with CHANDA MWENYA
THE combined factors of global trends in art and the recent establishment of formal art training in Zambia are making it less attractive to be a self-taught artist.
In the absence of a formal art school, self-taught artists became fashionable on the Zambian art scene.
Equipped only with natural talent without any manifesto, self-taught artists have painted everything from market scenes, to scenes of busy streets; from mother and child to landscapes.
They have literally chronicled the Zambian story through visual art.
But the global trend in contemporary art demands input beyond natural talent.
The world is becoming sophiscated in science and technology.
And for artists to remain relevant in the contemporary society, they need to be up to date with the dynamic trends apart from having the know-how to paint beautiful landscapes.
Can art be used to address climate change, social injustice, political violence and many challenges affecting society?
Does it require academically trained artists to rise to the occasion and create thought provoking artworks?
Not at all! Perhaps what is required is for the creative minds to think outside the proverbial box and create artworks that are not only rich in aesthetics but are also meaningful in concept and have relevance to society.
Although conceptual art does not usually ride on aesthetic appeal, it reflects on more relevant issues in contemporary society.
I particularly find conceptual art quite pertinent in illustrating real social issues affecting society. I also appreciate it as an effective platform to question ideologies and values.
Although not a conceptual case, the Julia Chikamoneka â€œnude actâ€ was a forceful statement that has left a lasting impression.
However, a classic example is the performance by conceptual artist Alexis Phiri at the height of political violence in the run-up to the recent general elections.
Alexis used the Supreme Court arena as an ideal platform to stage his act as it was the centre of attraction at that time.
Alexisâ€™ act was a vital performance in which he made an artistic statement on political violence. He went to the Supreme Court grounds with a placard denouncing political violence, but police ordered him to stop the performance.
But that was not the only time a conceptual artist was challenged by authorities over their work. In China, recently a group of artists, who staged a peaceful demonstration against air pollution in the city of Chengdu, were stopped by local authorities and detained for several hours.
The artists, who organised the protest using the messaging app WeChat, felt industrial plants in their locality, were causing pollution.
Ultimately, conceptual art can be a useful tool for addressing pertinent global issues.
ART YAK with CHANDA MWENYA