By Samson Kambalu

Samson Kambalu (1914) by Archive photographMayor of London

A Photographic Inspiration

Samson Kambalu’s Antelope is a sculptural restaging of a photograph of Malawian Baptist Preacher and Pan-Africanist, John Chilembwe and European missionary, John Chorley.

The photograph was taken in 1914 at the opening of Chilembwe’s new church in Malawi (then known as Nyasaland); the two men had first met in 1899 and had become close friends. In the image, Chilembwe keeps his hat on in defiance of the colonial rule that forbade Africans from wearing hats before white people.

Antelope (2021) by Samson KambaluMayor of London

History Realigned

In Antelope, Chilembwe is larger than life while Chorley remains life-sized. By increasing the scale of Chilembwe, Samson elevates him and his story, revealing the hidden narratives of the under-represented in the history of the British Empire in Africa and beyond.

Antelope (2021) by Samson KambaluMayor of London

The Artist’s Style

Samson works with a variety of media, including site-specific installation, video, performance and literature. This multi-media practice is largely grounded in Nyau culture – a secret society of the Chewa tribe of Malawi, which is especially known for its ritual mask performances. 

Antelope (2021) by Samson KambaluMayor of London

He is known for his less-than-one-minute silent videos that he calls ‘Nyau Cinema’ characterised by sped-up motion and a grainy, sepia-tinged aesthetic akin to that of early cinema.

Samson Kambalu (2020) by Samson KambaluMayor of London

About the Artist

Born in 1975 in Malawi, Samson attended Kamuzu Academy – the Eton of his home country. He has a BA in Fine Art and Ethnomusicology from the University of Malawi; an MA in Fine Art from Nottingham Trent University; a PhD from Chelsea College of Art and Design; and has held research fellowships with Yale University and the Smithsonian Institution.

Interview with artist Samson Kambalu (2021) by Jared SchillerMayor of London

He now lives and works in Oxford where he is Associate Professor of Fine Art at Ruskin College and fellow at Magdalen College, both at Oxford University. Samson is also the author The Jive Talker, or How to Get A British Passport (2008) which won the National Book Tokens Global Reads Prize in 2010.

Credits: Story

L Rhoda Molife

Credits: All media
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