MAKING ART MORE ACCESSIBLE
Art in Zambia has typically been displayed in art galleries but one group, the Artist Collective, is going beyond the traditional gallery space. They stand out for actively making use of other exhibition platforms more so than other artists in Zambia. The Artists Collective is a group of seven artists; Emmanuel, Jamil, Isaac, Lazarina, Mwaba, Zeph and Sthembile, has become popular and well known for their wearable art, murals, pop up showcases and for using platforms such as Instagram and IGTV (Instagram TV) to showcase their artwork. The story of how the collective formed is one of serendipity. The group shared that, “The idea came around when we decided to do our first exhibition, ‘Perfect Imperfection.’ After the immense success of the showcase, we realised that not only had we formed a bond amongst ourselves, but also that it was easier to plan and execute projects working as a team. We enjoy each other’s company and focus on supporting each other to ultimately leave a legacy that will inspire aspiring artists.”
Among the most compelling pieces of work in the group’s portfolio is the collection of wearable art. Their motivation for creating wearable art is simple: “We make wearable art as part of our plan to make art more accessible to everyone. Not only is it more affordable than our fine art, it is also more convenient for people who want art but cannot hang pieces in their homes for whatever reason. We decided to take the wearable art direction because the general population has an inclination towards fashion. Merging fashion and fine art is a great way to achieve one of our objectives, which is affordable art for everyone. We also produce smaller affordable pieces like pocket art. We have children as young as fifteen purchasing our wearable art and pocket art. The idea behind this is to encourage an appreciation for art from a young age and breed a generation of people who respect and value art because they have access to it early in life.”
When asked to expand on their contemporary exhibition approach they enthuse, “Over the last two years we have had several exhibitions. Our first being ‘Perfect Imperfection’ focusing on the beauty in imperfect things, partly sponsored by Chaminuka Lodge and was at the Lusaka National Museum. The ‘State of Mind’ exhibition at ZUAG [Zambia Ultra Art Gallery] focused on mental health. We also had an exhibition called ‘The Wisdom Exhibition’ in partnership with Makeni Mall.
Our pop up appearances include a recent exhibition at 37D Gallery, the ‘Affordable Art’ exhibition and exhibitions in South Africa Johannesburg in Braamfontein, at Lake of Stars in Malawi and we also had our wearable arts up at the Global Platform thrift market. We have exhibited at Hotel Intercontinental, Jameson Connects at Roan And Sable Restaurant and created murals at Vodafone and Oxfam, as well as showcasing at the Cake Bar at Arcades and ZADS [Zambia Art and Design Show] 2018.”
The collective are akin to a travelling band of gypsies and this is something they share. “Taking our art to more places in Africa and overseas is something we intend to do. 2019 is a year of opportunity for us and we intend to do quite a lot after all the different things we have learned. Expanding our reach is something we have already begun with our South Africa and Malawi pop ups and we plan on extending our reach even further.”
Art can be expensive and when it comes to the financial part of profit and sustainability the collective believes, “The art industry is slowly gaining traction in Zambia. Whereas art was not seen for its value in the past, there has now been a steady growth in interest and value. Older Zambians are interested in our fine art but we are trying to make art for everyone, so we put out our wearable arts and pocket art for the younger folk and make it affordable enough for them to invest in. Pricing is a crucial part of the process. We have a pre-established pricing ceiling allowing each of us to price our pieces based on the amount of ourselves we feel we have put into the work, on the condition that the price doesn’t surpass our pricing ceiling or fall under our pricing floor. We are trying to diversify so everyone can have a chance to own art. People are connecting with our work more and more every day.”
The future burns bright for this collective of young dynamic artists as they build upon the legacy laid down by those who came before them. Their message is simple: “We preach a message of love, togetherness and ambition. You’re never too young to chase after even the wildest dreams. We want to empower that young artist who is sketching in primary school, let them know that they can be what they want to be and make a living out of it!”