It was a momentous occasion for Zambia’s art community as they unwrapped a delightful New Year’s gift – unveiling the Lusaka Contemporary Art Centre (LuCAC) on January 6, 2023. Nestled in Lusaka’s picturesque Chamba Valley area, LuCAC is a creative haven that boasts a gallery, a library, an artistic research scheme, and an artist residence programme. For over two decades, the visionary Victor Mutelekesha had mulled over the concept of LuCAC, and now, his theoretical idea has been brought to life.
Imagine the scene: It’s December 2002, and Victor Mutelekesha is visiting his fellow Zambian artist, Kalinosi Mutale, who was doing his art residence programme at the time in Amsterdam. As they chat, Victor scribbles an idea into his diary – an idea that would eventually grow into something much bigger than he could have imagined. Over the years, his vision evolved and was enriched by the input of his artist friends Anawana Haloba and Milumbe Hahimbe, who were based in Norway and Canada, respectively. Together, they birthed the Livingstone Contemporary Art Center (LoCA) – a testament to the power of collaboration and the enduring nature of a dream.
Victor finally realized that Lusaka was still thirsting for a cutting-edge art hub. After 18 years of dragging his feet, he finally put pen to paper and began drafting the plans. Before long, the architectural sketches were already under consideration for the Lusaka Contemporary Art Centre. Unfortunately, the actual construction of LuCAC was met with a daunting obstacle – the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, Victor refused to let this setback hinder his passion project.
With three years of relentless construction, sheer determination, hard work, and planning, the Lusaka Contemporary Art Centre finally took shape. Victor, who oversaw the project, acknowledges that determining the project’s true cost would require a detailed look at all the expenses incurred during construction and set up of the institution’s administration.
“My household fully funded the construction of the space; my wife Mercy and l received some financial support from Pro Helvetia, a Swiss Cultural Fund, to install all the shelves and cabinets. We also received support from OCA, a Norwegian organisation supporting artistic activities, which partly financed our inaugural exhibition. The late artist and my former boss Jan Groth donated significantly towards the inaugural show and some administrative work for the Centre,” Victor shares.
Victor and his wife, Mercy, funded the construction of the space, but they also received financial support from Pro Helvetia, a Swiss Cultural Fund, to install shelves and cabinets. OCA, a Norwegian organisation supporting artistic activities, partly financed the inaugural exhibition. Additionally, Jan Groth, a late artist and Victor’s former boss donated significantly towards the inaugural exhibition and even covered some administrative work for the centre.
The first-ever twelve-month exhibition at the LuCAC is aptly named “Prospice, Kwacha” and curated by Karen Monica Reini, a Zambian-Norwegian art historian. The inaugural exhibition brings together four unique artists Banji Chona, Sana Ginwalla, Daut Makala, and Germain Ngoma. The LuCAC is committed to showcasing thought-provoking and innovative artworks that stem from insightful research methods and working processes.
Step into the Lusaka Contemporary Art Centre’s inaugural exhibition, and you’ll be struck by the incredible diversity of artists on display. The artist’s diverse heritage contributes to their unique “Zambian” identity, and the result showcases cultural creativity unlike any other.
One artist who stands out is Germain Ngoma, an academician and artist based in Norway with maternal roots in Zimbabwe. For Germain, the exhibition’s rich mix of ideas and cultures has been an endless source of inspiration, driving his own work to new heights.
Another artist, Daut Makala, has created equally thought-provoking work. Drawing on the words of the book of Isaiah, his piece serves as a metaphor for mining and features a striking collage of images. From Daut’s self-portrait to icons like Patrice Lumumba and Sylvanus Olympio, his work leaves viewers wondering about the owners and beneficiaries of the mineral wealth buried in the earth of ‘the Continent.’
Meanwhile, Banji Chona, a female artist based in Simonga, Southern Province, is shaking up the art world with her concept of “Radical Re-imaginings.” By challenging preconceived notions of identity and the power dynamics behind the return of looted objects, Banji’s work has become a cultural repository of Zambian history and future. Her installation piece “Ngoma Zya Budima” is a powerful exploration of repatriation and a deeply personal healing process from grief.
Last but not least, Sana Ginwalla is a Zambian artist of Indian descent who is making waves with her photographic works. Her projects “Zambia Belonging” and “Everyday Lusaka” aim to preserve and present Zambian history through found and donated photographs, making her an artist to watch in the years to come.
LuCAC is more than just an ordinary art space. It’s a hub of innovation that brings together creative minds from across Lusaka and the entire country to share their unique perspectives on important issues related to human civilization. This dynamic space is a breeding ground for knowledge, insights, and ideas. Whether you’re an artist, an academician, or simply someone passionate about creative expression, LuCAC is the perfect platform to explore new horizons and push the boundaries of what’s possible in art and culture.
- The Lusaka Contemporary Art Centre (LuCAC) is one of the newest and most exciting art spaces to open in Zambia. It includes an art gallery, a library, and artist residencies.
- LuCAC is the brainchild of visual artist Victor Mutelekesha, who worked with various partners to make the dream of a cutting-edge art center in Lusaka become a reality. One of the center’s goals is to promote international and intercontinental collaborations and discussions.
- The center’s inaugural exhibition will run for a year and includes multi-disciplinary works from four Zambian creatives: Germain Ngoma, Daut Makala, Banji Chona, and Sana Ginwalla.
- LuCAC showcases the work of emerging and established artists, providing a platform to share their vision and engage with their communities.
- LuCAC is open on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm and Sundays from 12 pm to 4 pm.
Images by Kalichi Pictures