Lawrence Yombwe

Lawrence was born in Kalulushi, Zambia in 1956. He received his Art Teachers Diplomas from Evelyn Hone College in 1990. He studied for an advanced certificate in fine art (painting) at Croydon College, the United Kingdom in 1986. He obtained an Art Diploma from Africa Literature Centre in Kitwe, 1980. He served as the first Vice-Chairman of the Zambia National Visual Arts Council and Head of the Documentation and Exhibitions Committee. He traveled and studied Arts Administration with William Bwalya Miko in the United States of America in 1994 and established the documentation center at the Visual Arts Council headquarters (Henry Tayali Visual Arts Centre) in Lusaka. He is the initiator of Christian Art Images Workshops in Zambia and others. He taught at Matero Boys before he left Zambia for Botswana. While teaching art for almost ten years in Botswana, Yombwe and his wife, Agnes Buya, participated in various Visual Art Associations in that country. For instance, in 1997 he became the Secretary of South Central Art Teachers’ Association and was Chairman of the Display and Exhibitions Committee. He was also on yearly basis appointed judge of the Botswana National Arts Fair competitions. Yombwe was the initiator of the idea to establish a Museum of contemporary art in schools in Botswana.

During the United Nation World Tourism Organization, he was the main curator of the National exhibition held at the Livingstone Museum. In 2014, he was invited by the National Arts Council of Zambia to curate the first group art exhibition at the National Art Gallery in Livingstone. In 2016, he represented a three-man show (Agness Buya Yombwe, Benjamin Mibenge, and Lawrence Yombwe) held at Kunstbanken in Hamar, Norway.

He has won several art prizes including the Ngoma awards in Zambia and abroad. He has also participated in many regional, local art workshops and exhibitions. He has held 13 one-man shows locally and abroad. Lawrence is married to fellow artist Agnes Buya and they have two children, Yande and Kondwani. They are currently based in Livingstone where they run Wayi Wayi Art Studio and Gallery.

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 certain effects. I also experience the warm terrene of Africa. 

His Works