Zemba Luzamba (1973 – )

Artwork by Zemba Luzamba

Zemba Luzamba was born in 1973 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

After studying art at school in his native Lubumbashi, Luzamba (then Lutanda) enrolled for further studies at Evelyn Hone College of applied art and commerce in Lusaka, Zambia. Deciding not to return to the uncertain political environment of the DRC, the twenty seven year old artist headed to South Africa, where he has lived since 2000. Over the last decade Zemba has become a chronicler of his experiences as a migrant African in a country with an ambivalent and often violent relationship with its continent.

Zemba’s technical proficiency, coupled with his intimate account of the lives of transnational migrants, gives his largely narrative paintings a unique insight to the vivid scenes of everyday life. Photographs and sketches made over the years inspire many of Zemba’s images, but often do not refer to actual people. Zemba intrigues with his composition; he places his subjects, partially and temporarily. Are we dealing with memory, observation or imagination? Are these scenes witnessed in the new South Arica, or the old Congo?

While he is evidently familiar with his subjects, their lack of specificity introduces a degree of otherness to his images. With characteristic understatement, Zemba is a contemporary realist providing life like accounts of ordinary subjects whilst stopping short at overt commentary. At times, he hovers on the borders of satire, leaving the viewer wondering what to make of his shadows. These appear as innocent formal devices to suggest pictorial depth or provocative illusion to mimic the colonial lifestyles of the postcolonial elites. Similarly, there is the sartorial choices of his subjects who are almost always dressed in formal Western attire. Is this pure observation, aspiration or critique?

Zemba’s work is bolstered by his sensuous use of paint. His skillful observation of body language is combined with a formalist prediction for a structured, shallow, pictorial space. This emphasizes the immediacy and proximity occupied by the viewer to his work.

Zemba has exhibited internationally, most recently at Another Antipodes in Australia, and his work is featured in several public collections.

Zemba Luzamba remains in South Africa where he continues his quest as an artist.