Art Yak with CHANDA MWENYA
ZEELA Art Gallery, which is located off Leopards Hill Road in New Kasama, Lusaka that was launched a fortnight ago, is undoubtedly a unique development on the Zambian art scene that should be celebrated.
The private art gallery, which is also home to Charity and Bedah Salasini, is a serene environment that has blended a secluded family life with abundant Zambian fine art.
Besides its art collection, Zeela Art Gallery will also run an artist-in-residence programme, where it will be inviting an artist for a-month-long residence to create works inspired by its aesthetic and quiet environment. The artist-in-residence programme at Zeela, which is a Mambwe name, will not be restricted to visual arts, but will also include other genres such as poetry and literature.
When you arrive at Zeela Art Gallery, by appointment, you literally enter the Salasini’s own house. Yes, there is a thin line between their home and the art space. Before you know it, you will be stunned by the variety of the art collection; from the giant marble sculptures perched on the lawn to the miniature crafts placed inside the home cabinet.
If you are particularly keen of sculptor Eddie Mumba or multimedia artist Gordon Shamulenge or painter Alumedi Maonde’s works, then you will certainly feel at home at Zeela, as the gallery has a substantial collection of the trio.
While Eddie’s stone sculptures dominates the lawn, Gordon’s and Alumendi’s paintings take over the walls, illustrating the Zambian way of life on canvas.
But it was Gordon’s giant panting dubbed “Ceremonial Zambia” placed in the living room that caught my attention. It is a collage of Zambia’s traditional ceremonies ingeniously blended with sights of community everyday life.
Anyhow, Zeela Art Gallery is quite inclusive in its collection as you find works of other prominent artists such as Sydney Siansangu, Charles Chambata, Flinto Chandia, William Miko, Caleb Chisha and Kingsley Kapobe among others.
Perhaps, found exclusively in the Zeela collection are the works of Yongo, Taizya and Tusankine Salasini. I bet you don’t know these names. Indeed, they are no other than Charity and Benah‘s own children. The nurturing of art at Zeela starts from within the family making the trio’s creations a vital part of the gallery’s collection.
“Zeela Art Gallery presents a sizable collection of art, created and nurtured by artists in Zambia. The art pieces are manifest of our Zambian way of life, traversing the vast landscape of our motherland,” the inaugural catalogue reads.
“Zeela Art Gallery art collection spans a period of nearly 15 years when the first piece – a wooden sculpture by Eddie Mumba was collected. Since then, our passion for collecting pieces of art has continued to grow.
“Today, Zeela Art Gallery is home to over 140 pieces of art.”
And veteran artist Cynthia Zukas gives her impressions in the foreword.
“As I entered the grounds of Zeele Art Gallery, I was overwhelmed by the beautiful surroundings, and the atmosphere created by the Salasini family of their love and passion and enthusiasm for art,” she says.
“Since coming to Zambia in the 1960’s, it has been my aim to contribute to the development of visual arts. Here is a family with the same love of art and who realise its importance to the development of our nation and have created this wonderful new private collection called Zeela Art Gallery.”
It is natural to see that besides their love for art, the Salasini’s are passionate about Christ, which is why they commissioned artist Chande Kapundu to construct a Marian shrine on their premises, presumably making it is the most sacred place at Zeela.