ARTIST: WANE MUTAMBO
COUNTRY: ZAMBIA
MATERIALS USED: PENCIL on A2 DRAWING PAPER, PHOTOSHOP on the BACKGROUND

The feverish beat of the royal Maoma drums on the Barotse Floodplain marks the start of the annual Kuomboka ceremony. Exuberant songs shimmer through the air, drawing together the Lozi villagers in preparation for the ceremony. People from across Zambia travel to Lealui to witness the Litunga, the Lozi king, make his journey to the highlands in his Nalikwanda, the king’s barge. The festivities signify movement and the gathering of people. This year’s ceremony has been cancelled.

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted people of all ages in numerous ways. The most vulnerable are the elderly. In Zambia, rural settlements are scattered throughout the country. The majority of these areas don’t have access to adequate medical aid. In my illustration, the old lady is a representation of how people will try and do anything possible to keep the virus away; at her age it is very risky to come into contact with the virus. Even though her bare hands cannot protect her from it, her actions express the magnitude of fear that the pandemic has placed in our lives on a national level. Furthermore, the wrinkles on her face enhance the worry in her eyes.

As African people, it is in our nature to interact. We are in tune with each other, in the sense that we have a communal understanding. Covid-19 has restricted us from being in close proximity with each other and as a result, we do not know how to function. The African philosophy of Ubuntu, “I am because we are” is a relative meaning of how we grow as a people — and now we can’t be together physically and socially. When it comes to Africa, a person is known through other persons. Our lives have changed because we cannot be who we truly are.

When an empty bottle is closed, the air is trapped and if there is water, likewise. The bottle around the whole piece of my illustration is symbolic in that we are all in a bubble. All of us are confined, be it to the perimeter of our apartments or (if you’re lucky) to our backyards. We can only be around certain people and that bubble has to be maintained. we do not know what is going to happen and hence, our minds are also in a bottle. I used pencil to show the effects of the pandemic in pure black and white as this isn’t a happy moment. The title “Teti Tukumane” means we cannot meet.

From the lady covering her hands to the Kuomboka ceremony below her and the bottle encapsulating it all, the coronavirus has affected society and life as we know it in a somewhat fearful and negative way. It has placed us in a tough situation in which we can only be hopeful for the future and take each day as it comes.

With the enduring spirit that lives in each African, however, I daresay that we will persevere until the moment the bottle is uncapped.