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“At 23:56 on 23rd October 1963, Zambians rose in reverence of the Union Jack, the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom, for the last time as it lowered, signifying the end of British rule in Zambia.”

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Art Meets Latitude. An enduring creative partnership

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What combination of qualities would give a hotel the reputation of being on the cutting edge of hospitality, as well as art and interior design? It’s a well thought out collaboration of brilliant minds bringing both skill and talent to the table and engendering what is the Latitude brand, present in Zambia and Malawi and set to open later this year in Uganda.

Latitude possesses a unique combination of luxury, authenticity, quaintness and a strong down-to-earth vibe that sets it apart from any other Lusaka location. Each visit is just like the first time, yet you always feel at home. It is an encounter that is greatly influenced by the custom-made artwork and the brilliant interior design which delivers a picturesque setting, exquisitely curated.

Portraits, paintings and art on pages came to life during a special event at The Other Side where one of Latitude 15’s most notable artists, François d’Elbee, recently launched his new book Warmest Regards From Africa. This is no coincidence. When it came time to choose a location for his book launch, Latitude 15 was the obvious choice for François.

Before we got started, François gave us a quick tour of his artwork dotted across Latitude 15’s The Other Side and The Works.

It’s Friday morning at 10 a.m., we stroll over to The Other Side weaving through the signature Latitude furniture and finally taking our seats right by François’ most iconic piece of art for Latitude: The African Portrait featuring Zambian model Mulenga Chileshe.

As we waited for our cappuccino orders, François opened up about what he thinks defines an artist. Although he never studied art, François grew up in Paris surrounded and immersed in the art scene, crediting his father for this exposure. “My father used to take me to the Louvre every week to educate my eye,” he says.

François also adds: “I believe that photography can be influenced by reading, education, or simply mood but also by the way you approach your own life…but I think you’re born with the potential to become an artist, it’s something you ignore or something you explore.”

In the past 50 years, François has lived in Chad, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and other African countries before settling down in Zambia where he has now been for the past twenty-five years. “I always loved the idea of coming to Africa and when I finally got that chance, I knew this is where I wanted to be, “ he tells me.

In his professional career, François has released several extraordinary books showcasing his artistic work as a photographer. He learnt early on in his career that photos can bring about strong emotions in people. Francois remembers some advice given as a beginner by a Paris photo agency ,  “If you can make a fridge look like magic then you’re a good photographer! ” That’s why the subject is not really the main reason that François takes his photographs, but rather it is to make things more than what they seem. With that being said, the artwork hanging on the walls of Latitude 15 is simply magical.

There are also the Latitude calendars shots, an original concept by Jake da Motta, for which François created the photography. The finished product is an ingenious ‘brochure’ highlighting various parts of Latitude 15 in a way that all of us can relate and appreciate.

François’ successful long-standing relationship with the Latitude brand from the time of their entry into the Zambian market made the hotel the perfect venue to launch his book. And what better place to do it than The Other Side at Latitude 15, where his most iconic pieces are  displayed?

Warmest Regards From Africa contains the best of François’ work, covering humanitarian issues, amongst them being the experiences of the albino community. Wildlife, environmental conservation, fashion and portraits are amongst his other favorite themes and genuine and informative text by different authors run throughout this 250 page coffee table book.

The mind of an artist is one that many wish to explore in order to fully understand what inspires them and how, just how, they are able to create something that nobody else can. Perhaps we can never really grasp what goes on in the mind of an artist considering what tortured souls they all are – a recognisable cliché we both laughed at.

François is confident in the Latitude 15 team. His confidence has continually been shown to be rightfully placed, and for this reason he looks forward to continue this association.

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