Rockston Studio 1985
Rockston was founded in 1985 by Lutanda Mwamba, veteran printmaker, sculptor and painter. Lutanda got his inspiration from prints made by an other veteran artist, Patrick Mwemba, at the time he worked as a gallery assistant at Mpapa gallery. Initially he started off as a printmaker and went on in 1988 to train David Chirwa to make sculpture, while still practicing his art of printmaking.
After one year of intense training, the master and the student put up their solo exhibitions simultaneously at Mpapa gallery. Lutanda covering the walls with linocuts and woodcuts, while David decorated the floors with stone sculpture. This exhibition also marked the watershed that now separated the student from apprenticeship to professional practice as this marked the graduation point.
The very same year 1989, Lutanda was the only artist to be awarded the prestigious Commonwealth Foundation Fellowship grant from all Commonwealth states in Africa. This grant enabled Lutanda to go and work as a printmaker at Reading University in Reading, Berkshire County in England, for a period of six months, which he extended by working in Jamaica, another commonwealth country, in the same capacity as a printmaker. After working in Jamaica for approximately two months, Lutanda went back to Reading University and did an advanced course in printmaking for one year, sponsored by the Lethwe Trust. He came back home in 1991, and joined David who was actively working as a professional artist and sculptor.
Lutanda's departure to England marked the beginning of Rockston going international. The period between 1991 and 1994, David participated in a number of workshops locally and internationally.
In the year 1994 Lutanda and David started training Martin and Jakeh the skills of stone carving, and these two students came to join in a group of other young artists who had previously worked under Rockston apprenticeship programme or had been directly inspired to start stone carving like Nezius Nyirenda, Gilbert Nyirenda, Aaron Banda, David Lewanika, Bob Siyanboa and the late Harrison Kasaia and Teddy Zebbie Muhango. By then Rockston had started growing into a formidable group, and that prompted it to secure studio space at Garden House Hotel with the courtesy of the visual arts council Patron Mr. Rossi. Currently Rockston is comprised of Lutanda Mwamba, David Chirwa, Martin Chanda, Baba Jakeh Chande, Helene Lund Chirwa, Ngamanya Banda, Stary Mwaba and Bar’uchi Mulenga.
The group worked successfully at Garden House Hotel for four years. And thereafter decided to diversify by individual members working from respective studios around Lusaka. Rockston Studio spaces are now situated at Tasintha Malambo rd, Lusaka.
The period 1994 to date has been very interesting in the existence of Rockston in the sense that it has seen students participate in quite a number of art activities, like exhibition, international workshops and residency programmes.
Since its inception Rockston has been a self sustained informal school of art, apart from enjoying material support in form of working space from Garden House Hotel.
What Rockston was in 1985 and today 2002, is a clear indication of what the group is capable of. In a country with no school of Fine Art, Rockston provides a platform where artists can collaborate, develop ideas and gain from shared insights and different approach to making art. Rockston’s contribution to the visual arts in Zambia is a small achievement to be proud of.
We started having a permanent gallery for Zambian artists to display and sell their works January 2001 in Woodlands, Lusaka. Rockston Studio Gallery is currently exhibiting local artists, but aim to put up a more structured exhibition programme including visiting artists from abroad. Rockston affiliated artists pay 50 % commission, guest artists 25% commission. The funds from commissions go towards supporting Rockston Studio become a resource center for artists. We are in the process of creating a web site to display artworks on Internet and thereby open the channel for Zambian artists to sell and encourage global interaction in the arts. In a long run we aim to be a gallery on tour, taking Zambian art around Southern Africa, for a start, and then the world over.
Art Library and Archive
We want to collect books and magazines with contemporary art from all over the world. The major emphasis will be on postmodern art in the world today. The collecting of books will have an extra focus on African Art, and will build an archive of slides of work from the best contemporary artists from all the African countries. We want to crate a place where artists can informally study art, compare where they stand with the rest of the art scene in the world, and last but not least, gather inspiration and knowledge about art.
Rockston has always been a place where new artists have been formed. Due to lack of formal art schools in Zambia, Rockston recognizes the need for more educational programmes. We will invite from within and from abroad to hold presentations, talks and workshops. Inviting people with theoretical art education will also be priority. We will especially encourage more exchange programmes. Consistently sending artists abroad for short and long term courses, residencies and workshops, will keep us abreast with the times. It is of equal importance to bring artists from other countries here, to work over long periods of time to exchange knowledge and experiences with local artists. For knowledge is the real power. We will of course continue to have young artists working with our professional artists at our studios at all times.
Rockston provides communication facilities like fax, phone and email for local and international exchange programmes. Artists will have an opportunity to display and sell their work on the Internet as well as access information. Rockston shall endeavor to deliberately search and find updated information on possible residencies, workshops, grants and education grants for artists. Rockston will work flat out to secure all available workshop spaces and residencies with grant attachments for artists in Zambia.
Tools and equipment
Rockston shall be a resource center where artists can borrow tools and make use of computers, camera, video camera, slide and overhead projectors, VCR and monitor and other equipment.
Rockston Studio and gallery shall encourage informal interaction between local and international artists and help install professional attitude towards work that is being created.
Rockston has access to a 3.5-ton light truck equipped with a two ton lifting capacity crane, courtesy of Tiki Taxi and hire. This we hire for a reasonable amount per month and can be able to provide materials like stone, wood, clay and other materials for Rockston affiliated artists. This truck is also being used for delivering artworks to exhibitions around the country, and can also be used for taking works for exhibitions in surrounding countries.
Taking Art To the Public
Rockston has embarked on a project of taking art to the public by exhibiting outside embassies, hotels, banks, companies and roundabouts. The exhibitions address a further need for the community to have places where art can be seen with the respect it deserves. The majority of the Zambian public do not appreciate art simply because they never see it in their environment. Over the past 25 years, Zambian artists have produced a lot of exciting masterpieces that have steadily seen their way our of the country, due to the fact that most of them have been collected by the expatriate community who have to leave the country for their respective homes at one point or another. There are few that collect and remain in the country permanently. But there is a common fact that very few indigenous Zambians collect art. This can be attributed to the fact that most Zambians rarely see professional art, as you will hardly find any public art on display. It is very hard for both young and old Zambians to appreciate art, which is being produced by fellow Zambians, if they hardly see it in their lives, hence the need for acquiring it. Art enriches the surroundings and a city like Lusaka, is desperately in need for visual enrichment and beautification. A city that once upon a time was blessed with numerous green parks in almost all the neighborhoods, currently does not have a single park of international standard. Take for example the embassy park, which is right in the midst of the international establishments such as embassies and high commissions, which come from a rich background and culture of green beautiful parks, lies dry and thirsty. Rockston works with the business community, embassies and other interested parties in beautifying the city of Lusaka by Taking Art to the Public through displaying artworks away from the traditional gallery setup, to public outdoor spaces.
Strategy of Survival
Currently most visual arts programmes in Zambia fully operate on funding from the donor community. There are very few, if at all any, visual arts programmes that are self-sustaining. It does not take much reasoning and thinking to foresee the future of such kind of projects in the event that the donor community withdrew the much-needed financial support. It is naïve also to think of the donor funding for visual arts to go on forever along the existing lines. Rockston has foreseen the future consequences in the event of a withdrawal for funding of the arts and hence is embarking on a route of self-sustenance right from its inception. Rockston will function and carry out its programmes as far as possible by raising the funds through sales of artworks, because the artwork itself is the only product that forms the core of the visual arts existence. For instance if Rockston needs a ticket from KLM for a project, it is more honorable and meaningful if Rockston sales artworks in exchange for tickets. This does not just benefit Rockston and the artist, but also helps the promoter through advertisement. When the artist sales his pieces of work, the next thing that comes to mind is to produce more works to replace what has been sold. Selling works stimulates productivity and the quality of the artists work, and also builds the artists self-esteem and well-being. Artists have a product to offer, and to make them completely reliant on donations only, does not up build in any way. In actual fact they have a valuable product to give in exchange for the much needed funds. The artwork makes the artist and the value and the quality of the artist puts value on the artist. It is of great importance that the artworks are given back the value they deserve, which is being ignored. The current trend is such that, the visual arts infrastructure is seen to be improving, while the artist is getting poorer and poorer. Rockston puts value on the artist. We would like to see a situation where the infrastructure develops hand in hand with the artist.
· Minimum 4-5 Taking Art to the Public exhibitions
· Reduction of commission for guest artists
· Special privileges for Rockston affiliates
· Extended marketing
· Studios and residency programme
· Focus at Rockston as education concept; graduation show for Ngamanya Banda
· Sculpture Park
Taking Art to the Public
During the first eight months of 2001, we arranged for 9 public exhibitions outside hotels, banks, and embassies and at Kabulonga roundabout. Out of the traditional gallery settings we displayed sculptures in green surroundings for the general public to enjoy. Through this we also tried to inspire institutions and companies in Zambia to invest in art, which seems to be working. These exhibitions were usually accompanied with small folders, banners and other means of bringing attention to the happening. Our cooperative partners usually covered the advertisements. We had good response to these exhibitions, and it is a fine way of marketing Zambian art in general and specifically marketing our young, ambitious gallery and the Rockston affiliated artists. We would like to continue this programme, in cooperation with some of the contacts we established in the previous year. We have reduced the number of exhibitions but increased the quality and publicity around them.
Reduction of commission for Guest artists
The commission for Rockston affiliated artists will still be 50%; but the guest artists will pay a commission of 25%.
Special privileges for Rockston affiliates
Rockston affiliated artists enjoy several privileges due to the high commission paid, such as;
- free access to materials and tools
- first priority to studio pace at Tasintha
- free access to email, phone, internet and transport
- promotion - locally and internationally
- small loans towards artworks
- priority to art commissions administered by Rockston
- We will constantly keep an advert in Lusaka Lowdown. We tried it out in 2001, and it increased the visits to the Gallery drastically.
- Print a good number of folders to distribute at hotels, travel agencies, Zambia tourist board etc.
- Equip all Rockston artists with business cards
- Continue Taking Art to the Public exhibitions, focus more on publicity
- Set up web site
- Explore Livingstone and the Copperbelt as potential markets
- Actively approach the business community and suitable institutions, person to person
- Make proper signs outside the gallery in woodlands and at each end of the road, and at the workshop at Tasintha
Studios at Tasintha, Malambo rd and at 27 Elm rd Woodlands
We are currently constructing ten studios for artists use courtesy of the Finnish Embassy in Lusaka. We will have eight studios to offer to artists with dimensions; 5m long by 5m wide by 4m high, at Tasintha Malambo rd, light industrial area, Lusaka. Four of them are ear marked for artists working with painting and printing related media. The other four are for artists working with sculptural related media. Each studio will be furnished with an easel, a writing table and chair, a couch, two florescent light bulbs and a three pin PowerPoint socket. To supplement, we also have a 10m by 40 m paved, open-air stone carving studio space, suitable for making big sculpture and installations. We will have further two studio spaces at Rockston Studio Gallery, 27 Elm rd, Woodlands, ideal for artists working in painting and printing media. The studios will similarly be equipped as the eight other studios. 27 Elm rd also has a small lodging facility for artists in residence. We will soon launch the residency programme. We have secured our first residency programme grant for one artist through Triangle Arts Trust on behalf of Ford Foundation.
Focus on Rockston as education concept
It takes four years to get the complete art training at Rockston. Ngamanya Banda will graduate at the end of this year, and we will mark this occasion with a well-organized exhibition of his works, and possibly combine it with an official opening of a more formal exhibition programme for Rockston studio Gallery in 2003. It will be a special focus on how Rockston has been a concept for educating and training new artists. Since its initiation and how artists in Zambia mainly get their training through apprenticeship. If needed, we will source for funding to carry out this event in a professional manner.
The sculpture park by the Mosi-o-Tunya Rainbow
We run a sculpture Park at Zambezi Sun hotel in Livingstone, Zambia. The park is right next to one of the Seven Wonders of the World; Mosi-o-Tunya (commonly known as the Victoria Falls)
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