Saturday, 26 November 2011

Zenzele Chulu | Zambian Artist/Activist

Born in 1967 on Zambia’s Independence Day  earned him the name Kenneth after the first Republican President Kenneth Kaunda. Later Zenzele a Zulu name meaning self reliance became the name synonymous with the artist’s credentials.  In 1991 Zenzele Chulu enrolled at Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and Commerce, to do his Art Teachers Diploma, he later headed the Art Section and taught art for four years at Kabulonga High School for Boys before joining the Visual Arts Council – Documentation Project as a Research Assistant, it was this period that he motivated himself to take on art administration and cultural management  as his contribution in developing visual arts in Zambia, working with almost the entire spectrum of the Zambian art scene. Since 1998 when he quit from teaching,  Zenzele has immersed his abilities in the creative industry with humility and dedication.  Despite the rages, changes and  challenges faced in the Zambian art scene, he has  shown remarkable zeal in delivering what he can. 

His 1997- 2000, allegoric and epic painting,  Return of the Gods was exhibited first time at Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany and later  was entered into the Osaka Triennale in Osaka, Japan 2001 becoming the first Zambian artist to enter the US$ 93,0000 rich finals of this international art competition and  later the same year he attended Thapong International Art Workshop in Gaberone, Botswana, and concluded the year with local  Ngoma Award -  Best Two Dimensional artist in his pocket. In 2002 he became a member of the Insaka International Artists Trust organising team and  has organised five successful international artists workshops producing more new artists that have become household names in contemporary art today in Zambia. Over the years he has facilitated a lot of artists to get exposed, Stary Mwaba, Ngamanya Banda, Kalinosi Mutale, Charles Chambata, Gordon Shamulenge, Kate Naluyele, Nezias Nyirenda, Tom Phiri the list goes on,  while working with experienced senior artists Vincentio Phiri, Lutanda Mwamba, Mulenga Chafilwa, William Miko, Patrick Mumba, Style Kunda, Flinto Chandia, Martin Phiri, Godfrey Setti, Shadreck Simukanga and many more not mentioned here.

In 2004 he participated in the TGD4 Tambacounda International Art Workshop in Tambacounda and JOKO Workshop in Dakar, Senegal. In 2005 he went to Nagoya, Japan as the designer for the Zambian pavilion for the Aichi Expo 2005 and later he went for an art residence at the Bag Factory in Johannesburg, South Africa and  after returning he got inspired to do an art residence at Rockston Studios in Lusaka till 2008. His work , ‘ Will Power ’ broke through ranks was also exhibited alongside great painters Andy Warhol, Mangalatana , Alberto Korda and Roy Lichtenstein in Paris, at Tajan Auction House facilitated by Joe Pollit. Zenzele represented Triangle Arts Trust at the 2008 Tulipamwe Workshop in Nambia after returning from another workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the first Abro Ethiopia International Workshop where Kenenisa was added to his list of names and an exchange programme in Mauritius.

In  2008 he attended ARESUVA  visual arts conference in Abuja, Nigeria where he sat on the panel among professors and doctors of the arts . In 2010 he was invited to a residence at the  Art Bakery in Cameroon where he got inspired by the late Cameroonian artist Goody Leye to launch Zambia’s first art newspaper, ARTpages and later he conducted  a capacity building workshop in Addis Ababa for young emerging Ethiopian artists. He was in China at the  Shanghai  Expo 2010,  to modify the Zambian pavilion and later was selected to attend the 2011 Florence Biennale in Florence , Italy. He was this year  nominated by Triangle Arts Trust Director Alessio Antoniolli to enter the US$ 25, 000, Sovereign Art African Prize to held during the Johannesburg Art Fair in September 2011, part of  the Prize money will be donated to charity.  Zenzele is scheduled to give a presentation of Insakartists Trust at the Triangle Arts Conference in London, this year November, 2011.

His uncompromising distinct artistic direction makes him one of the most sophisticated and diverse artists of the times.  Zenzele styles have one thing in common , all have ancient and traditional African themes, which  are central to his compositions, from the figurative contra style to the current trend of emotionally charged schematic tantrums .One may not realize that the current abstract schematic tantrums have roots in the ancient caves and rock shelters of Zambia’s Heritage sites, found scattered across from the hills of Eastern; Central and Northern  provinces, hence in 1994 he had his first schematic tantrums solo exhibition at Rockston Studios and Gallery. Zenzele began his research way back in 1998 up to 2003 with the Documentation Project funded by the Visual Arts Council going round the country documenting Zambian arts and crafts , which included historical sites and national monuments.  It was the outburst of artistic anger about the state in which these sites were losing their priceless value through archaeological theft and grafiti . He decided to throw tantrums on canvas as a way of drumming up  an awareness campaign, about the plight of these heritage sites, since 2004 the trend of schematic tantrums has continued to fascinate the art scene with various themes within themes. He continues to be  the contemporary custodian of ancient tradition of abstraction and an activist of his country’s artistic heritage. On the other side Zenzele was this year nominated  as country researcher for the Zambian chapter  on the artists expression of creative freedom and its relationship  to human rights with ARTerial Network based in Cape Town, South Africa under the  ARTWATCH AFRICA Programme. Furthermore he was picked to represent artists run network from the African continent at the Triangle Network Conference in London.

 ©ARTpages 2011.

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