MFA Exhibition Opening: "Black Mountain" by Stary Mwaba

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"Black Mountain" exhibition by Stary Mwaba
"Black Mountain" exhibition by Stary Mwaba

Exhibition Opening:  

5:30 pm Thursday, 7 February 2019 

Gallery in the Round in the 1820 Settlers Monument, Makhanda

(go down the basement stairs in the far left corner) 

All welcome. Images of the exhibition will be posted: 

Black Mountain:

In this new body of work, Mwaba grapples with the complexity of Chinese presence in Zambia, with a particular focus on the mining sector. He pushes back at the top-down discourse of economists and politicians who drive the broad "China-Africa" story. The typical rhetoric of “China-Africa” is made up of facts as well as myths, and it often ignores historical context and the lived-experiences of people on the ground. Mwaba frames the installations, paintings and videos in this exhibition around the personal narratives of members of his family living in Zambia – his daughter, his grandma and his cousin.

The mining sector in Zambia is particularly controversial and has been core to much research on Chinese presence in Zambia. The Black Mountain mining slag, which is central to Mwaba’s exhibition, is an increasingly controversial space as it was sold at one point to a Chinese company.  Through his empirical research and artistic exploration, Mwaba revisits the colonial history of the Black Mountain and provides a close-up look at this multi-layered space. He draws from the stories of his cousin, who is a small-scale miner at the Black Mountain waste dump and who trades with Chinese people in the Copperbelt in order to make a living. Due to the unstable nature of the mining slag, many small-scale miners (at times deemed illegal as government policies shift) have died in their attempts to make a living.  In this exhibition Mwaba grapples with this contested space that is filled with the hopes and the misfortunes of local Zambian people. Through paying attention to these petits récits, he adds meaningful texture to the understanding of everyday Zambian and Chinese encounters. 


Stary Mwaba, a Lusaka-based artist, was already well-known in the international artworld before he began his MFA at Rhodes University. He is the recipient of the Commonwealth Arts and Crafts Award, the Zambia National Arts Council Award, and a KfW Stiftung grant at the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin (2014-2015). He has participated in a number of residencies, exhibitions and international workshops, which include Bisi Silva’s Centre for Contemporary Art; Robert Wilson’s Watermill Residency in New York; the Caribbean Contemporary Arts in Trinidad and Tobago, and the Braziers International Workshop in London. His solo exhibitions include “Life on Mars” at the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin (2015), “The Solace of a migrant” at Gallery Momo in Johannesburg (2009), “Freedom in Transition” at the Lusaka National Museum (2008), and “Crossing Over” at the Caribbean Contemporary Arts in Port of Spain (2005).

At Rhodes University, Mwaba has conducted research on African and Chinese encounters with team members Ruth Simbao, Zhang Lifang and Hu Binjun. This month, Mwaba, Zhang and Simbao will present this research at the College Art Association conference in New York.  

Video link to Stary Mwaba's CNN African Voices interview: From HIV counselor to award winning painter

Exhibition poster

Source:  Rhodes University

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