Sun. Apr 2nd, 2023

Curated by Raphael Chikukwa, the exhibition “VeraCity” surveys recent paintings by Mwamba Mulangala, a Zambian artist who draws his inspiration from urban life in Lusaka. Mulangala creates his works by applying thick amounts of acrylic onto surfaces sourced from his surroundings: old packaging, cardboard boxes, newspaper prints, polyurethane mesh, or canvases previously used for mixing colors. While the artist paints in a realistic mode, his palette departs into vivid juxtapositions of yellows, blues, and mauves. Some of the compositions offer glimpses into Lusaka’s tavern and club culture, while others portray acquaintances and sex workers from various cities.

The show’s centerpiece is a six-part painting titled Sweet & Supreme (Crowned Candy), 2022. Together, the panels form an image of a defiant-looking woman wearing a golden crown, platform shoes, and a short pink dress patterned with a collage of candy wrappers. In Zam Chicks, 2022, Mulangala plays with the name of a chicken distributor, which doubles as local slang referring to women within the city. Whether the term is negative or positive remains ambiguous. While it can certainly be used in a derogatory manner, women sometimes also subvert this, referring to themselves as “chicks” as a means of empowerment. Mulangala depicts this double-bind, portraying a quartet of female figures on a discarded package with the eponymous logo.

As an exhibition, “VeraCity” offers a meditation on the urban decay that is often associated with high-population and low-income areas. Mulangala reverses this paradigm, revealing some of the nuanced beauty embedded in these so-called “social ills.”

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