Lawrence Yombwe

After undergoing the marriage initiation, most of my works are themed around Mbusa imagery. These are secret emblems with hidden meanings about life. They are used as teaching aids during marriage and coming of age (for girls) initiation ceremonies, which are practiced among the Bemba of Northern Province of Zambia. During the ceremony, messages of justice, love, finance, governance, respect, tolerance, gender, equality, sex and unity get conveyed. These messages aimed at molding young men and women into responsible citizens, are very dear to me and occupy my mind most of the time. Using the mbusa imagery thus in my studio practice, I try to highlight traditional ideas, images and objects that have formed patterns in our Bemba/Zambian society when we are either mourning or celebrating and are unique; they are that which no one can find anywhere else in the world and which make us who we really are as a people, different and special. It is that which, if found ‘dirty’, should not be abandoned but should be ‘cleaned’ and will be useful again, the source of identity, the anchor, the foundation, the reality of who we really are, our language and heritage. Any loss of identity in the name of development either directly or indirectly is a crime against humanity. Borrowing from nature for our wellbeing, I liken Mbusa symbols to tactics employed by carnivorous animals to hunt.

Like a good song that is  always enjoyed, whether someone understands the words or not, I would like my art to contribute to peoples happiness in their various lives. In my landscapes, the roads (foot paths) represent our existence, where we are going and where we are coming from. Although these foot paths remind me of the ones I used to take when I was a boy with my father on hunting trips, they speak of a long journey (life) with many bends that seem like they end from a distance, but unfold as you approach them. What looks like human figures in my work are in actual facts symbols representing life. The heads are inspired from African clay pots and vases, while the arms from elephant tasks and cattle horns, which is a symbol of power, health and wealth. The use of hessian as my main surface have social, economic and identity dimensions to it. When I was growing up, the material was used to package maize, our staple food. When empty, we would use it for many other purposes. This has stayed with me to date. I find most of art elements and principles already there. It allows me to express myself in ways that I can’t using canvas, like painting from both sides to achieve certaineffects. I also experience the warm terrene of Africa