“Exercise and Exorcise”

The Oxford based artist and author Samson Kambalu, born in 1975 in Malawi, studied at the University of Malawi (BA Fine Art and Ethnomusicology, 1995-99); Nottingham Trent University (MA Fine Art, 2002-03) and Chelsea College of Art and Design (PhD, 2011 – 15). He has shown his work around the world, including Dakar Biennale (2014, 2016), the Liverpool Biennial (2004, 2016) and was included in All the World’s Futures, Venice Biennale 2015, curated by Okwui Enwezor. His winning Fourth Plinth proposal Antelope will exhibit on Trafalgar Sqaure from September 2022 to 2024. Kambalu has been awarded research fellowships with Yale University and  Smithsonian Institution  and is an associate professor of fine art at Ruskin College and fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford University.

Holy Ball, 2000 – present

Samson Kambalu works in a variety of media, including site-specific installation, video, performance and literature. His work is autobiographical and approaches art as an arena for critical thought and sovereign activities. His basic influences are Situationism,  the Nyau prestation social structures of his native Malawi and the Protestant tradition of inquiry, criticism and dissent.

In 2000 Kambalu made a work called Holy Ball, a football wrapped in pages of the Bible, and invited people to ‘exercise and exorcise’ with it at various venues, both local and international, starting with the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College. Since then, Kambalu has evolved a philosophy of life and art based on play and critical transgression.

His first novel, a portrait of the artist growing up in Africa, The Jive Talker or How to Get A British Passport, published by Jonathan Cape and Simon and Schuster in 2008, was awarded Winner of the National Book Tokens ‘Global Reads’ Prize (2010). The book was translated into German by Unionsverlag (2010), and Kambalu has been on performative reading tours since 2009, combining art and literature. These have included Cabaret Voltaire in Switzerland, Rauris in Austria, The Frankfurt Book Fair and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Kambalu’s psychogeographical Nyau Cinema is a series of playful site-specific performances, ‘rants’, presented as film clip interventions on various social networking sites online and in specially designed film booths and cinema installations.

Kambalu’s AHRC funded PhD (2011-15) examined how the problematic of the gift animates various aspects of his art practice. This included research into the general economy in Meschac Gaba’s  Museum of Contemporary African Art.

Samson Kambalu CV

Download Ten Rules of Nyau Cinema here

Selected Nyau Cinema Dispositifs

How to Make a Holy Ball

Samson Kambalu interview: Venice Biennale 2015 All the World’s Futures

Nyau Culture of the Gift – and art: Samson Kambalu TEDx Roma Talk 2016

Nyau Philosophy: Contemporary Art and the Problematic of the Gift – a Panegyric (PhD Thesis 2016)


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