Official site of SAMSON KAMBALU Malawi born Oxford-based contemporary artist and author. Looks at cinema and the everyday life as animated by the problematic of the gift. Makes art while busy living life like film strips.
Samson Kambalu’s sculpture Antelope, depicts a 1914 photograph of Baptist preacher John Chilembwe and European missionary John Chorley.
It has been chosen alongside Teresa Margolles’s sculpture which features casts of the faces of 850 trans people.
They will go on display in 2022 and 2024 respectively.
Kambalu said the original picture his artwork was based on “looks ordinary” at a first glance.
“But when you research the photograph, you find that actually there’s subversion there, because at that time in 1914 it was forbidden for Africans to wear hats before white people,” he said.
“For me, the Fourth Plinth and my proposals were always going to be a litmus test for how much I belong to British society as an African and as a cosmopolitan, and so this fills me with joy and excitement.”
In his design, Chilembwe is larger than life while Chorley is life-size. The judges said by increasing his scale, the artist elevated Chilembwe and his story, revealing the hidden narratives of underrepresented people in the history of the British Empire in Africa and beyond.
He added: “When I proposed, this was before Black Lives Matter and George Floyd had been taken into the mainstream and I thought I was just going to be like the underdog, because I had made up my mind that I was going to propose something meaningful to me as an African.
“But we have to start putting detail to the black experience, we have to start putting detail to the African experience, to the post-colonial experience.” – BBC
Please join us on Tuesday 8 June from 6.30-7.30pm for a free online event with writer and scholar McKenzie Wark and artist Samson Kambalu.
McKenzie Wark will be joined by Samson Kambalu as she responds to Kambalu’s current exhibition at Modern Art Oxford New Liberia, and his use of détournement, a practice of playful appropriation developed by the French avant-garde group, the Situationist International.
This event is part of the Humanities Cultural Programme at TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities). Book free tickets
The work would shine light on the Baptist pastor, who believed in a unified African nation. The photograph was taken at the church Chilembwe constructed and opened in 1914. He has his hat on, defying the colonial rule that forbade Africans from wearing hats in front of white people. A year later he was killed while leading an uprising against colonial rule.
Chilembwe was first Pan-Africanist to die resisting colonialism in the early 20th century. He quietly inspired figures of black liberation such as Marcus Garvey and WEB Du Bois.
Twee-eiige Drieling and S Kambalu Productions Presents:
A Game of War: Kambalu v Sanguinetti Trial at Ostend
In 2014 the Italian Situationist Gianfranco Sanguinetti sold his archive to Yale University’s Beinecke Library in a move his critics saw as going against the Situationist spirit of the potlatch. In 2015, on fellowship at Yale, the Malawi born artist Samson Kambalu photographed the whole archive and at the invitation of Okwui Enwezor exhibited the archive at Venice Biennale with an aim to put it back in public domain. Sanguinetti sued Kambalu and the Biennale demanding closure of the installation, pulping of the Biennale catalogue and a fee of 20000 euros for each day of delay. Sanguinetti did not win the case at Venice and owes Kambalu legal fees. In August 2020 the case was heard again in a Belgian court at Ostend, according to continental law regarding parody and authors’ rights.
Dedicated to Okwui Enwezor
Samson Kambalu and Mu.ZEE represented by Didier Deneuter Gianfranco Sanguinetti represented by Elisabeth Daem Judge: George Martyn Situationist scholar: Sven Lütticken Registrar: Tobias Van Royen
Produced by Twee-eiige Drieling and Mu.ZEE Oostende Directed by Tobias Van Royen, Samson Kambalu and Jens Van Lathem Edited by Ychäi Gassenbauer Sound edit by Michel Bystranowski Cinematography and sound by Heleen Declercq, Jaan Stevens and Neal Willaert Translation and transcript by Stan Antheunis
With thanks to Mieke Mels, Ilse Roosens, Phillip Van Den Bossche, Vincent Meessen, Julie Van Elslande, Emma Ridgway, Amy Budd, Mu.ZEE Oostende, Mats Van Herreweghe, Lara Staal, Jan Desmet, Leo Vuylsteke, Ivan, Robin Goossens, Margo Veeckman, Modern Art Oxford
“New Liberia comes out of the time lag between aspects of early 20th century Malawian modernist cultures and various emancipatory social and political movements.” – Samson Kambalu
For his largest solo exhibition, Samson Kambalu’s powerful installation creates the atmosphere of an initiation ceremony for a utopia of international racial justice that equally values each person. This idea of a ‘New Liberia’ marks a mass change in attitudes, sparked by the pandemic and global Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
Kambalu’s exhibition is also grounded in the events of his African childhood, watching makeshift cinema and Nyau dances of ancestral costumes (a secret society of the Chewa, the largest indigenous group in Malawi), and enjoying playground swaps of national flag cards, whilst living under a dictatorship that came after British colonial rule.
Drawing from three centuries of philosophy, social pioneers and Malawian culture, Kambalu’s playful exhibition balances colour, humour and intelligence. Combining video, images, texts and sculptures, the exhibition exudes what the artist has become celebrated for: his vivid imagination and outstanding creativity.
The artists shortlisted for the next two Fourth Plinth Commissions are Samson Kambalu, Goshka Macuga, Nicole Eisenman, Ibrahim Mahama, Teresa Margolles and Paloma Varga Weisz.
The maquettes of the proposed works will be exhibited at The National Gallery from late May to July 2021. The two winning commissions will be announced this summer and unveiled in Trafalgar Square in 2022 and 2024 respectively.