According to your profile you call yourself a multidisciplinary artist, can you share what that means in modern day Kampala?
Well… A multidisciplinary artist is simply an artist who works in different media and also in different fields or areas within the visual arts. So in this case, a multidisciplinary artist in Kampala – there are several of them; There’s artists like Xenson and people like Stacey. Stacey works in photography, she has done painting before, not any more. She’s done a couple of things, installation as well. Xenson has done almost everything from fashion to photography to painting to installations to poetry, he’s very much multidisciplinary. Personally, I work in painting, collage painting. I work in sculpture, installation, photography, I want to do performance in future. Ya, that’s it.
What is your approach to preparing for your work and why did you choose this form of art?
My approach is quite simple, I work mostly in my head, I do a lot of thinking about a particular artwork, whenever I have an idea I think about it more opposed to sketching. I do a little sketching and writing but I think about it over a period of time, months. When it goes past a couple of months, it goes past a year or something then the idea will be lost and I’ll move into something else. When I think of a particular idea for a couple of months before I execute it, I then write a little, look on the internet. And then when I get down to executing the idea, it’s only like maybe two days or three days or a week, a work of art is born. And for the form of art I do, I’d like to say that I didn’t choose to do whatever I do, it chose me. But also, I’ve developed over a gradual period of time to select what’s best for me. I’m very much inquisitive, I’ve tried to move around, the place in the Ugandan context; galleries, to get to know several artists, get to know those outside of my circles, the east African art scene… Get to know the international African scene… And think about how I can fit in. So it takes some time for an artist to really figure out what you want to choose. It’s a combination of so many other things.
Why did you want to take part in the Modzi Residency program? And how do you see African residency programs being beneficial to artists especially in such times?
So I first met the director of Modzi Arts, Julia Taonga when she was back in Kampala. That was about two years ago and then I took her around with a team from Modzi Arts: Edward Kiss and Gita Herrmann. I took them around the Kampala Arts Scene, they went to the galleries, they went to some artist studios, and I connected with her and the people at Modzi Arts. And I thought why don’t I come down to Zambia, see what’s happening there. And ya, I’ve been in touch with her asking if there are any opportunities. So when I got this chance to come down here, I was like ya, I should come down. Cos like you know, also my work is about the African experience, African culture and Africanism and all that sort of things, so I thought it best to interact or to engage with another African country. I saw it as a golden opportunity to be in another African country so I’m here. For African residencies and artists, I really encourage African artists not to be quick to jump out and to go outside of the continent. I mean there’s a lot to learn here. I mean for African residencies for a fact they make us be in control of whatever we are doing – to control our stories, to control our image. I mean especially you get to know more about yourself before you jump out and see other things, see the world.
From your personal experience how did you prepare for your trip to Lusaka from Kampala and how has this helped your artistic practice?
I had a bit of time to prepare. There was like maybe a month or so. So I had to get my finances in check. I applied for some grants, made some connections and I got some funding… some little funding here and there. I tried to sell some works which finally worked out in the end. Then I got on a bus and I was like, I have to get on a bus and use the road to go through this journey. To get a feel of the whole experience, the African experience cos I’ve never been to some places like Dar es Salaam where I passed by. I was meant to take a train from Dar es Salaam to Lusaka but I missed out on that, cos they had advised me that it would be a good experience. So preparation was like that… so some of the journey got a little rough. But everything was quite ok.
African art is currently facing some real challenges in terms of all public activities being cancelled or postponed how is this affecting your process of creating work for your residency?
Well, fortunately I think this situation has affected, I could say affected my practice here at the residency positively or maybe negatively as well because I had planned to do something else here. I planned to do something related to my work that I usually do about Pan Africanism and the African culture and the history. I was going to dig deeper into and research more about the traditions here before the white man came. But when I got here because of the whole situation about the Corona virus, I was triggered, I drifted off to another kind of thinking. And I saw that I need to do something about the experience that I am going through, the travelling during these trivial times and ya, I thought I should respond to whatever is happening right now, right at this moment because it is very important. It’s more urgent I thought. But ya, maybe a little later, cos I’m locked up here for some months. I could delve into the other intentions I had to do here at the residency.
We are sure at this point of Coronavirus you must desire to be at home but in the light of being locked in Zambia during this period how has the experience been?
Well, I should say the experience has been not bad. I mean firstly, because back at home everybody is just locked down, locked up. They imposed a serious lock down, nobody can do anything, almost nobody can move around in the streets. But here in Lusaka everything seems to be… the “lock down” is a little soft. So I can move around, I can go buy some materials, some supplies if I need to. So I ‘m glad I came here, I have my own place, I have a very nice host who has given me a place to stay and everything. So I’m very glad that I’m using my time profitably here. I am trying to do build a body of work and engaging with the art scene. I mean I can kind of do things here I wouldn’t have done if I was back home cos I would be locked up maybe at my parents home and maybe I couldn’t do anything so I’m really happy that I’m here right now. And making the best of these difficult times at least.
Can you share what your thoughts are for the future of artistic practices within the African context?
I’m pretty sure things are going to be better for the African arts or the African arts scene in the near future cos right now you see there some sort of awakening on the African continent. Young people right now engaging with the arts or the visual arts scene… putting out more intelligent work, more researched work, more heavy concepts. I mean better stuff than we used to see back then. And also African artists getting an eye from the outside continents, which is usually problematic but it can be a good thing cos African art is now getting bought outside, even in the continent people are getting and noticing whatever is happening, what African artists are doing. So in a matter of years, 5 or 10 years African art will be something. Going to see more museums I guess, more biennales, more art fairs, more culturally awakened people, which is going to be good. So the future is bright for the African art scene.
How have you engaged with the Zambian art scene?
Researched into the Zambian art scene… I have seen a couple of sculptures around Modzi, I’ve seen a few books. I went to some places today, VAC- Visual Arts Council of Zambia/Henry Tayali Gallery I saw some works. I haven’t been to many art studios cos it’s quite hard to get to some places right now, to see some people even right now. I’ve seen some work, and it’s quite impressive, mostly the sculpture. Sculpture is quite a hard a field, it’s quite bulky but I see so many sculptures here which is really a good thing. Here it means they are more patient and dedicated to a much harder field of art. Umm… who could be my favourite artist in Zambia so far? I think I find Aaron Samual Mulenga work interesting. It’s good stuff. And let me see… Clarence Albert Zulu who did some of the Modzi sculptures he’s really good as well… no he’s not really Zambian, he’s Zimbabwean haha! So who else? There’s…. I have to think about that!
What’s next for you?
Well, I’m building a body of work that’s going to be like a response to the situation right now. Of course, I don’t want it to be the usual wash your hands, wear a mask kind of thing that you see around the place. So it’s going to be much more about… more something poking in your face. Like you know my work is usually like that, where it’s a little provocative for some people. It’s going to be like that, it’s going to question whatever is happening. I mean as an artist to implore a certain kind of urge or feeling towards whoever is in control of the situation. Towards our governments, towards the people who are ahead of us. What are they providing to deal with the situation? What are they doing about it? What do they need to do? Are they doing enough? And who’s at the back of everything else? Why do we need to wear masks? I mean some questions seem simple and a little stupid. But we need to ask questions always. Where did this thing come from? Why is it now? Is it that now is when people are tip toeing around, they are not standing properly on their feet, just jumping up and down really scared. So those are hard questions to ask… so ya, I’m the one who sacrificed himself to trigger the questions I guess.
The Grow to Share exchange programme aims to provide a context for arts organisations within the SADC region to share skills and knowledge and explore opportunities to develop networks and collaborations.
WAZA WE EXCHANGE
24th June to 28th June 2019
During this trip two of our staff members, Julia and Banji visited Centre d'art Waza which is an art centre located in the heart of Lubumbashi's centre ville. The aim of their visit was to spend a week within the Waza Space learning and exchanging. During the course of the week the two organisations exchanged knowledge on the
development of artistic educational programmes, organizational frameworks
and annual project programming.
Capacity building for cultural operators within the African region is a sure way to create ripples of positive development within the arts and culture spheres.
But it wasn't all work and no play. The staff visited various sites within the bustling city, such as the Gécamine Mine, home to a towering man-made mountain of burnt earth (read: mining waste), The Lubumbashi National Gallery, which boasted a thought-evoking collection of ethnographic material, the copper lined Cathédral. And last but not least the centre of bustling night life and hi-life Kamalondo.
The five days spent within the DRC and within the Waza space invoked many spark of inspiration. The Modzi-Waza partnership is a blossoming plant yet to bear fruit for the many mouths of creative to eat.
After a 6 month long Residency with Modzi Arts, South Korean artist Hojin had his first solo showcase. An exhibition that was entitled YoMe.
Ho Jin (b. 1984, South Korea) is a doodler, animator, and digital documentary artist, who utilizes pop culture to try and simulate understanding and connect with people. He studied in media content and youth education counseling at University of Soonchunhyang. He was dispatched to Zambia for the first time in 2010 by the Korean National Commission for UNESCO. For those first four years, he conducted cultural arts and film projects with local youths in Kafue.
Given the experience of living within local communities amongst Zambian people, as an ‘outsider’, he was given the opportunity to direct focus towards exploring his personal emotions within this context as well as the wider cultural context. As a result, on his return to Korea he published a book of illustrations entitled 'Monster in Me', which is centered around the artistic manifestations of his feelings.
In 2016 he returned to Zambia and began working in collaboration with Modzi Arts. He began to develop and build up his career as an artist with various projects such as wall painting, graphic design, documentary, and workshops. Jin has traveled to various places in Africa and Europe for art related projects and programmes.
This interjection, that was first recorded in 1905 in the US, was used as slang for the colloquial question of “what is happening?” or “what is going on?” Wass up (What’s up) can be said to have been made popular by the cartoon character Bugs Bunny, who used it as part of his catch phrase "What's up Doc?" (around 1940). This pop culture catchphrase has spread all over the world and is rated to be one of the most universal approaches in starting street communication.
Throughout his artistic journey Hojin has progressively become a pop culture street artist. He is South Korean by birth and descent. He began using the term when he arrived in Zambia in 2010. Hojin decided that the most widely understood form of saying hello, “Yo, what’s up”, would become his verbal tool to get close to people and form bonds, as he could not speak English or any Zambian language upon his arrival. He now uses this form of communication to connect you with his art:
“HEY, ART LOVER, WASS UP?”
This particular interjection influenced Hojins’ work and persona to such a large extent that he later became known as ‘Yoyo the Street Artist’. The YoMe exhibition for him symbolizes sharing a hello and not just any hello but one that comes with a positive reaction. In a world where a peaceful “Hello” is rare to find, where war and conflict have become part of culture and where anger and jealousy are ingrained in daily ways of living, YoMe poses to make a statement to advocate for messages of love, peace and happiness. With that being said, he asks that you share some love, peace and happiness with HIM
HI HIM, FIND HIM, LOVE HIM, YO HIM…
How often do you attend a party or a club night in Lusaka, or anywhere else in Zambia for that matter and see a woman spinning the decks? Exactly. Not very often. This isn’t because women are naturally less talented than men or because men have a better understanding of crowds and nightlife but because women aren’t afforded the same opportunities to learn or outwardly express their skills and passions as men are.
In tandem with lack of opportunities and platforms, are a number of traditional societal and cultural norms that further shroud and limit the experiences of women within many areas of life, nightlife being one of the most prominent. According to these social and cultural narratives, especially within Traditional African societies, the place of a woman is at home, within the family setting. Taking care of children, cooking and cleaning.
The more contemporary narrative tells a different story. Women are no longer subjects of hierarchies in which men sit comfortably at the top. Women define their own existences without adhering to the stereotypes forced upon them by society. Women get to choose who they want to be and what direction they want their lives to take.
Though there has been a shift in the mind sets of women, there still exist fairly wide gender gaps in many areas of life. One of the values at the core of Modzi Arts is the empowering of groups and individuals in society who we feel are often marginalised and disenfranchised within the creative sphere.
Our latest project Rackless Kazi in collaboration with the British Council Southern African Arts programme was a 6-day female exclusive DJ Residency was structured around breaking the yokes of traditional values and beliefs by promoting the position of young African women in the electronic music industry.
The Residency was facilitated by 4 international mentor DJ’s, Rosie Parade from Johannesburg, DJ Sichi from Ndola, Alba Nalo from Windhoek and Jamz Supernova from London.
During the week period the mentors imparted their skills and knowledge with a group of 7 mid-level and amateur DJ’s various countries within the SADC region through industry masterclasses (on topics like Marketing and Branding) and technical workshops (on practical skills, such as operating mixers and decks). Participants and mentors also attended events central to being within the electronic music industry such as a press release lunch and a networking party.
The workshops, masterclasses and surrounding events not only served their intended purpose of providing a platform for skill-sharing as well as the promotion of women in the industry but also had the ability to forge personal bonds between all the parties involved.
We look forward to continuing to nurture and strengthen the art scene in Zambia by providing a platform for creative people to develop and present their work.
Keep your eyes peeled for follow up projects and a possible Rackless Kazi sequel!
The US American Bluegrass Band The Crow and the Canyon visited Modzi Arts for an exchange programme with Zambian musicians. A two days workshop was held at Modzi Arts and was followed by a public concert at EastPark mall.
On the 3rd and 4th of April 2018, Modzi Arts hosted the US American Bluegrass band The Crow and the Canyon, for a 2-part workshop and music exchange collaboration in Lusaka. This event brought together 13 young Zambian musicians form different musical backgrounds.
The first workshop on 3rd April 2018 adressed Traditional Music in the Modern World. While Theresa Ng’ambi and James Sakala gave our guests an understanding of traditional Zambian folk songs, The Crow and the Canyon gave an introduction to Bluegrass and its instruments. The genres were explored with historical references and meanings as well as with musical demonstrations of technique and style. Like this many similarities between Kalindula and Bluegrass were found.
The second workshop on 4th April 2018 focused on The Business of Folk Music followed by a Jam Session. The Crow and the Canyon offered various strategies on marketing folk music online and using social media to promote music. Differences between Zambia and America were worked out and options of overcoming the same were discussed. Afterwards the musicians played music together and worked on two collaborative songs.
On 6th April 2018 the participants performed at East Park Mall for the public event Music for Wildlife. All participants of the workshop performed and John Chiti joined as a special guest. Between slots advocates of NGOs spoke to create awareness for their work. During the concert they had stands next to the stage to inform pedestrians. The following conservation NGOs took part in the event: It’s Wild, Birdwatch Zambia, Conservation Lower Zambezi and Wildlife Crime Prevention. In addition to John Chiti’s performance Albino Foundation of Zambia had a stand, too.
This event was funded by the US Embassy Lusaka.