“New Liberia comes out of the time lag between aspects of early 20th century Malawian modernist cultures and various emancipatory social and political movements.” – Samson Kambalu
For his largest solo exhibition, Samson Kambalu’s powerful installation creates the atmosphere of an initiation ceremony for a utopia of international racial justice that equally values each person. This idea of a ‘New Liberia’ marks a mass change in attitudes, sparked by the pandemic and global Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
Kambalu’s exhibition is also grounded in the events of his African childhood, watching makeshift cinema and Nyau dances of ancestral costumes (a secret society of the Chewa, the largest indigenous group in Malawi), and enjoying playground swaps of national flag cards, whilst living under a dictatorship that came after British colonial rule.
Drawing from three centuries of philosophy, social pioneers and Malawian culture, Kambalu’s playful exhibition balances colour, humour and intelligence. Combining video, images, texts and sculptures, the exhibition exudes what the artist has become celebrated for: his vivid imagination and outstanding creativity.
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Oxford-based artist and writer Samson Kambalu (b. 1975 Chiradzulu, Malawi), studied at the University of Malawi (BA Fine Art and Ethnomusicology, 1995-99); Nottingham Trent University (MA Fine Art, 2002-03) and Chelsea College of Art and Design (PhD, 2011 – 15).
Kambalu authored the first memoir of a childhood in Malawi, The Jive Talker (2008), and his artworks have been exhibited around the world, including Dakar Biennale (2014, 2016), Tokyo International Art Festival (2009) and the Liverpool Biennial (2004, 2016), and featured in All the World’s Futures, Venice Biennale 2015, curated by Okwui Enwezor. With solo exhibitions at PEER Gallery, London, and Mu.ZEE, Ostend, Belgium in 2020; Whitechapel Gallery, London and NSU Art Museum, Miami in 2016.
Kambalu’s work is in the national art collections of Tate, the British Council, and the Contemporary Art Society, and his research fellowships include Yale University and the Smithsonian Institution. Kambalu is an associate professor of fine art at The Ruskin School of Art and a fellow at Magdalen College, University of Oxford.
This exhibition is generously supported by Modern Art Oxford’s Commissioning Circle, John Fell Fund Oxford University and Kate MacGarry Gallery.
With thanks to TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities), Magdalen College University of Oxford, Galerie Nordenhake Stockholm and Goodman Gallery South Africa.