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Modern African Art : A Basic Reading List


Southern Africa : Zambia

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Ellison, Gabriel. Art in Zambia / produced by the Zambia National Visual Arts Council; written by Gabriel Ellison. Lusaka, Zambia: Bookworld Publishers, 2004. 68, [59]pp. illus. (chiefly color). N7396.6.Z3E45 2004 AFA. OCLC 62081552.

Art in Zambia rightfully claims to be the first popular history on the visual arts of Zambia. The book project was initiated by a group of Zambian artists who selected Gabriel Ellison, herself an artist, to write the text. Three chapters are devoted to the colonial period – roughly the 1920s to the 1960s – and these are quite interesting, pulling together unpublished and widely scattered bits and pieces on European artists who for one reason or another lived in or passed through Zambia (Northern Rhodesia at the time).

The story of contemporary art in Zambia from Independence in 1964 is a story of conscientious attempts to implant art institutions and infrastructure in the not always fertile soil of this post-colonial outpost. Initiatives were begun, but withered away due to lack of sustained support and patronage, despite the best efforts of artists and promoters. Artists emigrated; others drifted away from art practice or died young. Since 1989 the National Visual Arts Council has taken an activist role in raising the visibility of the fine arts in Zambia and in mobilizing resources to organize workshops and exhibitions. Clearly, the momentum picks up in the 1990s, and some of the insularity of the artists is shed. Corporate, governmental and NGO sponsorship has always been important in contemporary Zambian arts. Most of the really successful initiatives were underwritten by external sponsors, e.g., Anglo-American, NORAD, the British Council. Commissions for public art benefitted a handful of artists.

In the biographical section, which comprises about one half of the book, there are fifty-nine artists who are currently living and working in Zambia (or recently deceased). Included are illustrators, cartoonists, graphic artists, wildlife and botanical artists, postage stamp designers as well as painters, sculptors, and printmakers. Installation and conceptual art are not yet part of the Lusaka art scene. One art work of each is illustrated along with brief biodata - - year of birth, formal art education, and exhibition/collection history. There are almost no young artists in the under-30 age group. Still, this biographical list is quite a valuable, indeed unique documentation. The color reproductions are fairly good, though the works of art are not dated.

Lechwe Trust Collection: the charitable trust for the visual arts in Zambia. Lusaka, Zambia: Lechwe Trust, 2005. 53pp. illus. (color). N7396.6.Z3A4 2005 AFA. OCLC 84647552.

The Lechwe Trust promotes art and artists in Zambia through scholarships, commissions, exhibitions, and workshops. Founded in 1986, Lechwe Trust has also acquired art from artists, including earlier works, to build and preserve a truly representational collection of contemporary Zambian art. Curator William Miko selected 65 artists from the Lechwe Trust Collection to showcase for this 2005 exhibition, although works by only 26 are illustrated in the catalog. The Lechwe Trust Collection is still looking for a permanent home to display works.

Lechwe Trust: a charitable trust for visual arts in Zambia: the art collection. Lusaka: Lechwe Trust, 2009. 92pp. illus. (color). N7396.6.Z3L44 2009 AFA. OCLC 707726617.

The Lechwe Trust continues to build a national art collection in Zambia, which by 2009 numbers more than 200 works. That's the good news. The bad news is that the Lechwe Trust Collection has no permanent home and it remains in storage, but is brought out for exhibition from time to time. In this 2009 catalog, 72 artists are profiled along with reports on art projects sponsored by Lechwe Trust.