Bana Subilo goes Solo, closing big on sales off her most intimate drawings.
Lusaka — Zambia / Andrew-Knox KANIKI
It is not strange for one to be respected by salutation and use of their husband's last name, but even more commonly, in many parts of Africa, Zambia especially, women are given respect by being addressed, as mothers of a child. This is not likely to change this artist’s attitude, because, not only has her work been exhibited with other great artists globally, her skills have on many occasions taken her to places many women, especially artists would dream about, making her an international artist in her own freely earned right.
As the term Bana Subilo would commonly be used to define her both as a wife and mother to her child named Subilo, a curator couldn’t resist the temptation to theme an art exhibition by defining the significance and stature of one of Zambia’s most talented artists, Mulenga J. Mulenga.
She is known by many artists and enthusiasts alike, and her work is no stranger to both local and international exhibitions and residences as she has shared several platforms with other like minds, including Mulenga Chafilwa, and Lombe Nsama. She is an alumnus of the phenomenal Gasworks, a contemporary visual art organisation working at the intersection between the UK and international practices and debates, based in London, United Kingdom.
Mulenga Jestina Mulenga is a female visual artist born in Lusaka, Zambia. using paintings, sculpture, installation and performance, with soft & deep markings, contours and threads Mulenga took time to stitch her personal archive from a past, connecting with the present and future.
Her works consider current and historical representations of female black bodies within the context of post-colonial Zambia, specifically the ways in which deeply rooted social roles and identities are reproduced and reinforced throughout every stage of life. Mulenga works across painting, sculpture, photography, installation and performance, to revisit and reimagine old and new narratives that connect themes of gender and socio-cultural discourses within the legacy of colonialism.
Awarded the most outstanding Female Visual Artist Award in Zambia during the National Ngoma Awards ceremony by the National Arts Council in 2019, and a professional artist for close to 10 years, this is her first solo art exhibition.
“My work focuses on selfhood and origin, revisiting and re-imagining old and new narratives that connect themes of gender and female ethnic discourse. I use stories passed down by my grandmothers, my mother, family portraiture and memories to question the current social structures within which a female black body is set” Mulenga shared.
“I didn’t want to force it on my practice and do it on my own because I didn't feel I was ready, so when Lee approached me and said this artwork needed to be in an exhibition, I was ecstatic. It was clear my work had an effect on someone outside me and that they felt it was worth a public view that makes it exciting, and challenging at the same time because it’s a new thing for me.”
“In the first instance, I wasn’t going to show every piece of my work and was just hoping to show my using paintings. It’s the first time I'm actually making my drawing public” Mulenga shared. Asked why so, Mulenga noted that most of the drawings and paintings are very private.
“Most of my work has been somehow my private and an intimate set of artwork, thus making it open for public view is giving a whole lot myself out to the public, because questions will also require me to speak about my very personal experience and private moments. It’s as though I'm now opening up to the public about my life. So this is really a huge thing for me, on top of the fact that I'm making my very first solo exhibition”, Mulenga shared with a gesture.
Just a few days into the opening of the exhibition, a few personal drawings that were never made public and only kept as private artwork, but brought out for this solo exhibition, were bought and paid for within hours of being displayed. This includes an abstract painting that Mulenga has had sitting on her lounge room wall from as far back as 2013. By the fourth day, the exhibition required a few more works to be placed on display as one collector had to travel with the artwork before the closing of the exhibition as normally is the case if you buy a painting at these prestigious exhibitions.
“The exhibition was themed ‘Bana Subilo’, which in the Bemba language of Zambia is just ‘Mulenga’ respected in an expression. This expression further defines the respect of who Mulenga is as a mother, and Subilo is her child, so, ultimately this exhibition is just, I, Mulenga”, so when Lee sent me the final theme, it caught me unaware, but I was equally intrigued as to how it would be perceived by those that would attend the exhibition”, she further shared.
Lee Garakara is curator and advisor at Mwimbi Fine Arts Gallery, an art gallery that hosted Mulenga J. Mulenga’s ‘Bana Subilo’ Solo Exhibition at the studio in Lusaka recently.
Born in Lusaka, Zambia, Lee has attended and lectured at the Centre for Visual Arts, at the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. After post-graduate studies, he established the Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery to support the development of African contemporary arts by realizing projects internationally and with the hope of showcasing contemporary African art of the highest form possible.
He has continued to forge cross-cultural ties between Africa and Asia so as to explore the link between contemporary art, African art and its wider audience.
With over 100 paintings and drawings, on exhibition for two weeks, at the Mwimbi Fine Arts Gallery, Mulenga was able to sell most of her artwork to both local and international collectors and enthusiasts. In closing the exhibition Mwimbi Fine Arts, Lee Garakara also hosted Mulenga’s ‘Talk and Performance’ Night, where the artist had an interactive session with guests asking everything and anything Mulenga.
The art gallery, add’s to many artistique spaces that have come up over the last 10 years, hosting both local and international artists with a focus on adding value, to both skill and talent.
Closing at the end of October, Mulenga’s ‘Bana Subilo’ exhibition preceded a male solo exhibition themed ‘Who Am I’, displaying the works of Ngandwe Mwaba. A contemporary artist born on the Copperbelt, Zambia, Mwaba is no stranger to local exhibitions, with several occasions exhibiting with Mulenga J. Mulenga, and a significant co-presence being ‘Zambia: the Making of Contemporary Art Exhibition’.
Mwaba’s ‘Who Am I’ exhibition is also curated by Garakara and will run from the 5th to 12th November 2021.
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