Instruments of Power

 

I made this body of work commemorating the Zambian presidents both past and present. The work also serves as a reminder of the position of power that state leaders hold. 

 

During the time I was working on this series, I was looking ahead to the election period that would be taking place in Zambia in the month of August 2016. One of the biggest drawbacks of presidential elections is the amount of violence and unnecessary death that takes place during this period. As the series grows I hope to bring attention to this issue and stress the importance of peace within the nation as leadership is chosen.

 

Over the past few years, Zambia has seen two of its presidents pass away whilst in office, which has resulted in a rapid shift of “the instruments of power” from one leader to another. It is a tragic thing for a country to lose a leader, let alone one who is still in office. My intention for this work is to begin a conversation regarding our leaders and the role they play in governing a country.

 

My choice to use chitenge, which is considered traditional fabric in Zambia, is my way of grounding the artwork in a visual language that can easily be understood by the people (especially those who use it on a daily basis). I am fortunate that the fabric can easily be recognized across the continent, which in turn gives the artwork the opportunity to be read widely as it is seen by different viewers.

 

I see this as the beginning of a timeless series that will grow even as the instruments of power continue to shift from one leader to the next. 

 

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The Artist’s Academic Journey

The Artist’s Academic Journey

My academic journey began in 2013, when I began my first year of study at the University of Cape Town. This was a really exciting time for me, experiencing new places, foods, and an array of people from various parts of the globe. The most exciting experience for me was being exposed to the art scene that is present in Cape Town. I have had the opportunity to visit galleries and meeting a number of artists with diverse experiences. There is the added bonus of being lectured by a wide range of practicing artists, which has helped to shape me and allow me to grow in my own artistic practice. The first year flew by in a flash ushering me into my second year of study in 2014.

Towards the end of 2014 my family’s financial situation began to worsen. This was a big cause of concern for us, as we had to consider how best we would work around paying the tuition fees for the next year (2015). I begun to converse with two very good friends of mine Taylor and Didintle over my situation. It was from these conversations that the decision was made to open up a crowd funding campaign in November 2014 to raise the tuition fees for my third year. If you did not see the campaign you can follow this link: Aaron’s Educational Endeavors

The generous contributions from a wide range of people saw us successfully raise $6, 000 in the space of approximately two months. This money has been sufficient to cover my tuition costs for the third year, freeing my mind to focus on my demanding studies.

At this point I would like to share some opportunities that have presented themselves since my return to Cape Town this year. In March I had the opportunity to apply for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program (MMUF). Out of the large pool of applicants I was amongst five scholars chosen to be a part of this prestigious program. To find out more about what MMUF entails you can follow this link: MMUF

Part of the MMUF program requires its students to attend a study colloquium that takes place in America during the summer break (June). In a short while I shall be travelling to America for this colloquium, which been made possible by the generous contributions I have received towards my education, for had I not returned to study this year, I would not have had the chance to apply for this program.

These past six months have also seen me work as an orientation leader and go through training to be a careers ambassador for UCT to high school students. I have worked as a librarian, a mentor for first year students and assisted in a postcard art project with a number of students that saw me exhibit my work alongside the first years we were assisting in this project. I am also a part of the Fine Arts Student Council, allowing me to engage in social issues relating to the Arts Campus at UCT, which are not solely academic. I have endeavored to broaden my art practice by presenting my artworks in a number of spaces. I was shortlisted for the MyCiti Bus (a big transportation company in Cape Town) art competition and I was selected as a participant for a street art competition in Langa (an area in Cape Town). I recently presented my artwork in the form of a talk to several students from the University of Virginia who are visiting Cape Town on an academic trip to UCT.

It has been a busy and exciting semester both in academia and my social life as so much has been happening allowing me to grow as a person. At present I am exploring what it means to be Zambian i.e. is there such a thing as a Zambian identity or Zambian culture. If so how does it present itself in one’s lived experience and if not why does it not exist 51 years after independence?

I am grateful for all those who have shared my passion and invested in my life through generous contributions towards my education.

Much Love and Blessings.

The Artist

Aaron Samuel Mulenga

The images below are part of my mid year exhibition:

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Simply Put – I am Zambian!

Imagine an overcast morning with clouds filling the skies, and the mountains behind you totally overshadowed by these thick white-grey clouds. Now, Imagine yourself dressed in a black shirt, a chitenge short and some brown boots. Fabulous right? I know hey.

Well that was me on this fantastic Sunday morning. I was geared and ready, in my Sunday kit to go and spend time with Mr. Jesus. Church was awesome; we learnt about the importance of imparting knowledge in the family through the teachings that happen at home (from parents to their children).

After church we usually spend time chatting amongst ourselves and catching up on the passed week. My reason for writing this little blurb came from a comment a dear friend made who seemed perplexed when I said to her that my chitenge shorts came from Zambia (my country of origin). She then responded and said I thought you were from Ghana because (paraphrasing the next bit) they have a certain flair about them, or I would have thought you were from a West African country because of how you look (she then went to describe the texture of my skin and attributed it to that of the people of West Africa).

Funny thing for me is that a similar situation occured whilst I was back home (in Zambia) over the December holidays. I had gone to a deaf center run by a friend of mine to do some work there, when one of the guys came up to me and asked “ Where are you from? Do you come from South Africa?” A little surprised that he would assume that I am South African I asked him why he thought that and his response shocked me a little. He said the fedora I wore and my outfit was not something that a Zambian would wear. In his eyes I was dressed well (and he seemed to think a Zambian man cannot be dressed well or at least not the way in which I was dressed). He went on to say the texture of my skin seemed too smooth for me to be Zambian. I had to emphatically tell him that I was born here and I have lived all my life in this amazing country. The way I look is the way a Zambian person looks, as there have been no alterations to my body or skin to make it look any different from anyone else.

These instances however are not the first time someone has assumed I come from a country that is not my own. Usually when people look at me they ask me if I am from Zimbabwe. I recently corrected a lady who made that assumption. I told her where I was from and she responded with the following comment “Zambia, Zimbabwe – they are one and the same thing right?” Uhhh… Wrong! How on earth can two countries be one and the same? There is such a vast difference between Zambia and Zimbabwe – but that is something I will discuss later on.

The fact that people constantly ask me whether I am from Zimbabwe or make the assumption that I am from any other country in Africa apart from Zambia has made me question what my fellow Zambians and I are doing to ensure that people know that our country exists. If you look at Zambia, it is a peaceful nation, no civil wars since independence. There have been peaceful transitions of the instruments of power in the recent past from one president (the most recent transition happening only last month in January). As a nation we are very accommodating to various religious groups and people from different nations. Our musicians are of a high caliber as they perform around the world, look at people such as of people such as Pompi, J.K, hey even Emeli Sande has Zambian blood in her from her father’s side. Looking at sports, our national soccer team overcame several challenges when they acquired the AFCOM Cup in 2012. Our Visual Artists are amongst some of the finest; when you speak of individuals such as William Bwalya Miko, an individual who has made it his mandate to bring about formidable change where visual arts in the nation is concerned whilst exhibiting across the globe and impacting nations with his art. If you speak of natural resources, we have the Victoria Falls, which is one of the 7 wonders of the world. I could go on highlighting the beauty and achievements of our nation but I shall leave it here for now and make a subsequent post with more fun facts on Zambia.

I would like to make a simple point as I wrap this up by saying that Zambians have flair, we have style and we too are a nation that is a force to be reckoned with. We might be quiet and humble in our presentation of the lives we live but we too contain fire and power. Personally I believe our forte comes in the fact that we are a Christian nation and that we aspire to place God at the center of our interactions as a nation.

So the next time you see a good looking African man or woman please don’t run to every other African nation before you mentioned my beloved country. Zambia does exist and it is breeding blessed and influential individuals with an amazing capacity to bring about change wherever their feet may step. I mean, just look at the artist going against the grain and making something out of his gift.

To my fellow Zambians- the call is simple. Stand out and make sure people know that you are from Zambia as you do. Don’t hide in the shadows and let people continue to label you Zimbabwean, South African, American (yes I have got that one as well) or whatever else they want to. Let people know that you are from the land of the free, the beautiful land of ZAMBIA!

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Thank you for supporting My Educational Endeavours

Dear Family, Friends and all who have supported my Indiegogo Campaign thus far, allow me to say a really HUGE Thank you to you all!!!

A few stats as per the campaign: It has been shared over 355 times on facebook alone. It has been tweeted and retweeted over 23 times. The campaign has also appeared on various websites, newsletters and I can only imagine how many word of mouth conversations it has come up in.

I am so honoured by the overwhelming response and support everyone has given me and my campaign team so far. This has not been a solo mission but a team effort that has really been worthwhile.

As it stands there are just under 25 hours left before the campaign closes and I would like to say a super huge thank you for all your support help and continued encouragement. Surely this is proof that if you do not give up you can achieve whatever you set out to do.

Allow me to also update you on the amounts of monies that have been made – the site shows $2, 065 which has been contributed to it. But there have been more contributions made to me directly as a number of people has struggled to send the money to the site and so that money has been sent to my account in Zambia. I do apologise that I have been unable to forward the money from my Zambian account to the indiegogo site because online transfer difficulties due to the type of Bank account I hold in Zambia. In total the Campaign has raised just over $4,000

I believe this is a really huge achievement and such a big cause for celebration. Though the campaign is not over yet and so people can feel free to keep sharing the campaign link and contributing.

Thank you all so much for your LOVE, your Contributions and Continued Support.

With much Love and Appreciation from The Artist (ASM) and Team

 

To view the campaign please follow the link:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/aaron-s-educational-endeavors/x/9225511

 

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Contact the Artist

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asminspired

Twitter: https://twitter.com/aaronsmulenga

Email: rn_mulenga@yahoo.com

The artist's Business Card

The artist’s Business Card

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A Lost Sheep Without a Shepherd

A man without a father, a boy without a companion,

A slave without a master, a traveler without a campus.

That is how I feel when I contemplate my loss.

I feel like you are on a journey (as am I). I feel like I can still hear your voice, as if this is momentary and soon you shall return. Sometimes I remember that voice, strong, sure, certain and always in control.

 

Ahh but at times the feeling of loss is lost to me, especially when I think on what I have. Rather had, I take a moment to enjoy the beauty of a life spent with you. It is so difficult for me to speak in the past tense when you feel so present. The memory of you even in the now.

 

I laugh when I consider that I never got to properly laugh with you. I don’t cry anymore because “men don’t cry, men NEVER cry. Men never fall. Men never fail. Men always stand tall; they are always strong, always in control. Men always walk with their heads held high because a man is a man is a man.

 

I wish you spoke to me. I wish you told me that a man could be weak; or rather a man could express weakness. Is it not only human for us to fall? Alas I never saw you fall. NEVER not once, except… Except that fateful day.

What a cruel game life plays on us. What bitter irony, what an evil, malicious, hurtful psychotic game life can be. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a player in this game. At other times I wonder on whose team I play.

 

It is in such moments that I am reminded that anger, sadness, sorrow and passion come to each man all in their own time. But Joy is not too far off either. The one thing that ties it all together for me is Faith. A blessed assurance that in all we go through it shall be well. A hope and trust that there is a purpose for all that happens in life. I will keep trusting in You. Keep hoping and believing that You have everything under control and that my life is in Your hands.

His Grace Saint H.M

His Grace Saint H.M

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The Beauty of Having Your Head in the Clouds

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Over the past few months I have come to know the beauty of having my head stuck in the clouds. I have come to learn the beauty and the difficulty of sharing my person with another individual… and with other individuals. I have come to learn the beauty of being stretched (not that I have not been stretched before) but this time I was stretched in a way that seemed visible to those that know me.

As I sit in this plane looking out through the window I find that my head is literally in the clouds; I gaze out and see the beauty of the condensed water around me in balls of wispy goodness that make my insides melt as I am taken back to recent memories I made with the people, rather the person that has become so dear to me. The clouds are a reminder of the height I was rising towards when along the way I discovered a beautiful gem worth sharing amazing moments with.

As an artist one of the best ways I find myself able to share my experiences is through what I see around me and thus through the work I create. The lens of my camera has been a rather direct translation of the beautiful I see around me. It has allowed others to come on board and live those beautiful moments with me as I share my photographs and other art pieces with those interested in seeing what I see and how I see.

I wish for those who read this to take in the moments that happen around them, to share them with those they love and allow them to influence their lives because it is those little moments that make a big difference when you take a while to look back at them and let their impact settle in.

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To view more of my “Up in the Clouds” photographs please visit my facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/asminspired

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Driven

I believe that passion is placed in every individual when they are born, the difference between one who uses their passion and the one who doesn’t is that the person has not found what they are willing to wholeheartedly invest their time, heart soul and energy into.

I found my passion a while back but I only came to understand it as such when I had a DMC (Deep Meaningful Conversation) with my father and he asked me what I was passionate about. At that time my hearts desire was on a different path, I thought I would follow a different profession from Fine Art, but our discussion consolidated my desire to grow and explore this exciting gift I had. Yes I consider it a gift. A skill so precious that brings not only myself but a great deal of people joy and gladness when it is beheld is nothing short of a gift, not only to me but to those who get to enjoy the artwork that they see.

I have had an interesting journey exploring, learning and growing as I discover the beauty in Art (of course beauty means different things for different people). I am taken back to my recent exploration which was motivated by the traditional body markings in Zambia, in particular the facial scarifications. These marks allowed me to see differently when I look at people or the animals and objects around me. I begun to see these marks on the people’s faces I was looking at, which has opened up a whole new world of exploration as I endeavour to discover a form of identity through appropriation of the markings.  They have cultural meaning to me as a Zambian but at present I am trying to discover what meaning they bring to my work.

On that not I shall close this post with a fairly recent work exploring this style that I have found a great interest in : An image of our late president, His Excellency Levy Patrick Mwanawasa.

rPresident Levi Patrick Mwanawasa

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