PLAY IS THE THING

Malawian born artist Samson Kambalu delivered this year’s IDS Annual Lecture. Samson is a globally renowned artist and intellectual whose Antelope sculpture will feature on London Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth in 2022.

Samson used the lecture to discuss ‘The Antelope and the Problematic of the Gift’ as a dominant cultural form in Africa. Recently selected for the fourth plinth, the Antelope public sculpture features the Malawian Baptist preacher and Pan-Africanist John Chilembwe and speaks to some of the most pressing issues in development – colonial legacies, power imbalances and challenging dominant hierarchies.

He shared his perspective on how African arts and cultures can provide a lens to understand and deconstruct western interpretations of Africa in order to recast development. This included his exploration of the gift economy, Nyau philosophy and the role of art and creativity within it.

Kambalu reflected on how play might be a way for people to reclaim sovereignty in the face of capitalism and neocolonialism.

Samson’s presentation aligns with  IDS’ commitment to interdisciplinarity and  belief that to achieve radical, progressive change we need to bring together diverse knowledges, perspectives and forms of expertise from different countries, sectors, sciences,  arts and humanities. This is also consistent with IDS’ support of the recently-launched  Jena Declaration calling for a new regionally and culturally diverse approach to achieve the SDGs.

Through his talk Samson shared his personal experiences of growing up in Malawi and becoming an international artist and Professor at Oxford University.

The lecture included short films, images and other works that form the core of Samson’s work as a contemporary artist.

Chair

Melissa Leach, Director, Institute of Development Studies

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