NDANGWA MWITTAH, Livingstone
‘ART is a lie that makes us realise the truth,” Pablo Picasso, one of the most revered draftsman, painter, printmaker, and sculptor once said.
This ‘lie’ however, has the potential to turn someone’s fortunes around, if well exploited and marketed.
Picasso himself was a living testimony.
He knew from an early age that he was unlike the rest.
Born in Malaga, Spain in 1881, he displayed little skill or interest in school work as a child, and looked forward to his hours spent in detention for being a bad student, where he would lose himself in his sketchbook.
Fortunately for the world, his father was an artist and arts professor, and took a special interest in his son’s talents. He began training him in painting and drawing while he was still very young, and by the time Picasso was 13 years old, his skills had already surpassed his father’s.
Picasso was destined for a life spent swimming against the tide. He chafed at authority, and objected to the rigidity of classical traditions and techniques that were taught to him in the prestigious fine arts schools he attended as a teenager.
In 1899, at the age of 18, he fell in with a crowd of radicals, artists and intellectuals in Barcelona who would inspire his break from the classical traditions of his education, and launch him on a path towards innovation and experimentation that would see him grow into one of the most influential and transformative artists in history.
Picasso moved to Paris two years later, and began his lifelong journey through style after style, mastering and profoundly marking each in turn as he charted his own inimitable path.
His works rarely fit within established traditions.
His evolution ran from his early Blue, Rose, and African periods, through to the Cubism tradition he co-founded, and on to a brief return to Realism, before finally diving into the Surrealist movement, which saw him produce one of the famous and powerful anti-war paintings in history – Guernica, a copy of which hangs today in the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Throughout his 78 years as an artist, he produced no fewer than 13,500 paintings, 100,000 prints and engravings, 34,000 illustrations, and 300 sculptures and ceramic pieces.
Zambia has had a number of its own ‘Picasso’s’ over the years.
One of them is Flinto Chandia, a relatively seasoned sculptor who died in August last year.
He too, just like Picasso lived on art.
Chandia grew up in Kitwe on the same street as the legendary and much revered Akwila Simpasa, late Henry Tayali’s arch nemesis, an artist he has looked up to for inspiration throughout his career.
Simply put, art is one talent that if nurtured, marketed and taken as a business, has the potential to turn the fortunes of everyone, including the country’s economy.
On October 17, 2015, President Edgar Lungu, after touring the Henry Tayali Art Gallery in the Lusaka show grounds which is the Visual Arts Council (VAC) headquarters signed in the visitors’ book and commented: “Let us create a living for our people out of their talents by making art an economic activity.”
Whereas President Lungu might have been intrigued by what he saw on display in the Henry Tayali Art Gallery, Minister of Tourism and Arts permanent secretary Howard Sikwela was equally intrigued by what is on display in the Livingstone Art Gallery, the country’s only national art gallery.
“When we talk about job creation, this is what we mean. It’s not just about being in an office and wearing a tie and suit. Creative art is a job and a money spinner on its own,” he said when he recently toured the facility.
“So this is what we mean by creative arts,” he says. “You know there are very few people that can sit and come up with something that people will be able to admire and appreciate and this is where we need to support those people (the artists).”
From the time it was opened in 2014, the Livingstone Art Gallery has recorded a total of slightly over 3, 500 visitors, both local and foreign nationals.
“We have a lot of painting and sculptures here on display and from time to time, we have art exhibition for schools,” says Chansa Chishimba, the manager.
“We feel we can do better in terms of visibility. But we have over 20 artists on our books.”
But Livingstone being the tourist capital, has well over a hundred artists and you can hardly go a distance without finding artistic displays other than the art gallery.
And Reverend Sikwela wants them to affiliate with the art gallery.
“They will find that by doing that, they will rake in a lot of money and live comfortably out of art,” he said.
Whereas he desires for the art gallery to grow in terms of numbers, Reverend Sikwela is concerned that it has not been publicised as much.
“So, I just want to encourage the staff here to say, please, let us make this place visible. Let us talk about it so that people realise to say when we go that side, we will be able to learn one or two things,” he said.
“As a ministry, we just have to go flat out and market, advertise and things like that. I tell you to say, if we went out there and did random interviews on people about some of these places, very few will be able to tell you to say they are aware of what is happening here,” he said.
He adds that, “we need to tell the community to say these things are actually available in Zambia.”
Creative art: Money spinner with potential to grow Zambia
NDANGWA MWITTAH, Livingstone