MIND THE VISUALS

Zambia 2015 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mulenga Kapwepwe, Chairwoman of the National Arts Council, on promoting rural artists, partnering with the private sector, and promoting Zambian culture abroad.

Mulenga Kapwepwe
BIOGRAPHY
Mulenga Kapwepwe is a graduate of the University of Zambia and holds a joint degree in psychology and sociology. She served as Technical Consultant to the European Union and as well as Technical and Policy Advisor to the Ministry of Sport Youth and Child Development. She is a member of the Zambia Visual Arts Council, and the Zambia Women Writers Association. As a published author, she has written a number of award winning plays and books. She was Board Member on the Zambia Commission for UNESCO, as well as the Arts Institute of Africa and also chaired the Arterial Network.

What priorities have you set for the National Arts Council for 2015 and 2016?

For the first time in a long while, the council has been allocated considerable funding. And one of our main interests is to support rural artists, as this is a huge country with artists located across every province and village. Today many associate the term music with the contemporary scene, but there are musicians in villages that have been writing and composing music for a long time. Some of the programs we are launching today are based in rural areas. We have supported rural art festivals and music workshops in isolated areas not considered before, which is a major step forward. The other thing that we are trying to do is to leverage what we have received from the government by partnering with other institutions, making sure that we maximize our resources. We now have major partnerships with companies like Zambian Breweries, which supports the music industry through the Zambia Music Awards. We also have a partnership with Barclay's Bank, which supports the visual arts in the form of Atelier, a continent-wide visual arts competition and skills upgrading program. We are currently starting a program in partnership with the British Council, in regard to Business Arts Partnerships and audience development. This will assist artists who are running festivals, events, galleries, or any spaces or activities to creative partnerships and build their audience. This will be realized together with Ghana, Zambia, and South Africa.

What role can the private sector play in developing the arts and culture?

We have partnered with Business Arts South Africa, and this has allowed us to leverage the private sector in a focused and transparent way. Sometimes the private sector does not know how to engage with the arts, but I cannot imagine significant art development without the involvement of the private sector. In terms of the government, we have recently signed an MoU with the National Arts Council of the Seychelles, and have already sent two artists to attend events there. We staged an exhibition there and have been invited back, confirming the success of the endeavor. Meanwhile, individuals are also being sent here for training in gallery management as we boast quite a number of galleries and feel the owners should benefit from externally gained experience. There are also governmental programs that we are running in partnership with China.

How can arts and culture support the economic development of the country?

There are a huge number of people employed in the local arts and culture sector, but the figure could rise further. We are working to ensure that the government passes the new act and turns this into a more successful industry, leading people to understand that this creates employment. The copyright industries of Kenya and Nigeria are massive, and we will be pushing for a situation like that.

What is the best way of exporting Zambian culture and arts abroad?

One thing we were lobbying for was to link up with the Ministry of Tourism to take advantage of the synergies that such a partnership could generate. We want to make sure that where possible this synergy generates employment. People buy touristic experiences through the arts, be it through painting, theater, the culinary arts, and so on. This new legislation will create much of the impetus required, I believe that we are close to developing an artistic sea change.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

I hope that supportive legislation is passed, as we are also hoping that this financial year will be a rather more positive, and that we will be able to reach more artists. And meanwhile, for the first time ever we have our own national gallery, and we hope to accomplish more than last year in terms of fostering and supporting skills, training, and education.