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ZALUSO – A CONDUIT FOR MALAWIAN ARTISTRY

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After humble beginnings and months of struggle,Zalusohasmanagedtoestablishawidenetworkofover100artists andacoreadministrationteammadeupofsevenindividualsthatcurateandcommissionart. The organisation is one of the leading promoters of Malawian art.

Throughout the years, the Malawian fine arts have steadily been on the rise, and although there are misgivings about the future of this industry, there have been a few who have come to oppose the misconceptions and pessimism. The president and founder of Zaluso Arts, Macpherson Ndalama (better known as Mac), talks more about this matter and the future of Malawian fine arts.

The idea of Zaluso was to bring together artists and shed light on their various talents in the arts but also to stop the negative attitudes people have regarding the pursuit of a career in the arts.

Mac’s brainchild was introduced in 2014 when he had a year to go before completing his degree in humanities as a fine arts major at University of Malawi’s Chancellor College. Off to a rocky beginning, the idea was to start an online art gallery that would pool together and shine a light on Malawian talent through their website. After starting this website, Zaluso later switched to a Facebook page and a WhatsApp group. The WhatsApp group would later grow and become the ‘Zalusorians.’

“All we work with are prospective artists. We’re becoming more interested in artists that are not formally trained or come from rural or peri urban areas in order to empower and expose them. Sometimes we use social media to reach out to artists,” says Mac, the 27-year-old artist and president of Zaluso.

With garnered recognition, Zaluso has managed to establish a wide network of over 100 artists and a core administration team made up of seven individuals that curate and commission art. They get clients on a daily basis because of their well-known influence and quality work. The notable projects they have done speak for themselves.

Getting more insight into Zaluso’s journey, we get to hear about some of the projects they have worked on and are still remembered by to date. Flashback to 2014, Zaluso has just been launched online after getting their first funder (Art & Global Health Centre) but they go months at a time without any prospective clients, then, traction starts to build up as they get more and more clients with an age bracket of 15 to

each day. After going months on end without any projects, their first notable project in 2017 was when they were called upon to do an arts project at Grittah’s Camp (a live music venue) where there was scheduled to be a music video shoot for Malawi’s highly famous and loved, Zathu Band. The team’s work at the camp still remains highly acclaimed by the art community till today.

When asked about some of the notable projects the team had worked on, Mac recalled their trip to London for the Lake of Stars (LoS) UK edition. “They first saw our work on social media and came to a few of our events,” says Mac, recalling the start of Zaluso’s relationship with LoS. “After this, we were asked to decorate the 2017 Lake of Stars in Malawi as our first ever project with them.” They then went on to London for the LoS UK edition where they made decorations and painted a mural which is still an eye-catcher today. “People still pose and take photos in front of the wall we worked on and tag us on social media.” He describes the experience as amazing and credits it to Zaluso artists’ skills.

This was a big milestone for the team because “we had achieved our goal of taking raw Malawian talent and introducing it to the rest of the world.” This is why he lists this as one of the most memorable projects the team has done. Moving further into my conversation with him, Mac tells me more about how they use the art at Zaluso not just for the sake of beautifying things but as a tool for social and media change. “We use art to make the conversation on topics such as health and social awareness more interactive especially when we engage rural areas.”

Passionate about what he does, the president of Zaluso expressed how much they would like to put in place an initiative to include as many young artists as possible in Malawi and plans are underway to make this a reality. They have been approaching international donors and raising funds on their own for projects such as national arts education, arts spaces and appreciation to take place but in the meantime, they showcase art for appreciation and hold their own educational training – “plans for a more formal training facility are underway.”

“It would be easier to list districts we haven’t been to,” starts off Mac as he responds to the question of how far Zaluso has gone with regard to the extensiveness of their work. He praises some of the prospective artists in his team and others who he has worked with such as Akulu Lipenga, Jonathan Mphande, Faith Mzo, Amabel, Lerato Honde and Philip and Chisomo Gwaza, to mention a few.

Most of the artists Zaluso has managed to train and work with are doing well on their own and it plans to impact the art industry even more. Some of the notable clients they have worked with are the British Council, Castel, Fount for Nations, VSO, STEP and Girl Effect.

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