WHERE THE ART IS

Zambia 2015 | TOURISM | PHOTO ESSAY: CULTURE

“If you want to measure how advanced a country or community is, you should look at its arts. Art is effectively a measure of civilization, and I feel it should be appropriately invested in. Art is central to all communities.”— Pompi, Zambian singer, musician, and entrepreneur.

Zambia's art and culture is influenced by the history, values, traditions and beliefs of its more than 70 tribes that moved into Zambia in migratory waves centuries ago. Each and every tribe in Zambia can have as many as ten unique dances, making an astonishing total of 700. Individual dancers are colorfully dressed and sometimes even wear bells and other accessories, singing and accompanied by the traditional drums when they do their acrobatic movements that were in other times—and sometimes still are today—part of ancestral rituals and ceremonies.

There is one, in particular, that can be regarded as the national dance: the vimbuza. In fact, if Zambia promoted it extensively throughout the world, vimbuza could be to Zambia what samba is to Brazil or flamenco to Spain.

Besides dancers, Zambians are creative artisans. All types of crafts can be found in abundance in the Zambian culture with rural artists located across every province and village. One of the most popular activities in the country is basketry and, in fact, Zambia is home to some of the finest basket makers in Africa that use bamboo, reeds, roots, and liana vines to design its pieces. Carving and pottery are also some of the most popular craft activities, the first one historically undertaken mainly by men and the second one by women.

The Zambian experience is a mix of people and nature but also traditional paintings, theater, African fashion, and culinary arts. Even for those who have never visited the country, Zambia produces about 300 to 400 local films every year from where you can envision, at least, a little bit of this Zambian culture full of colors and music. Modern Western and digital new arts are entering the country with confidence and mixing with ancestral folklore. As Mulenga Kapwepwe, Chairwoman of the National Arts Council, told TBY, “We need to strike a balance and make sure that we do not lose our traditions. We are trying to organize forums for technological experts, digital artists, and developers of new media so that the country keeps pace with global trends in this area, thus capacitating us to manage our cultural resources in the technological age.”