Roy Kausa doesn’t meet people; people meet Roy Kausa – also known affectionately by some, as “Uncle Roy”.
A formidable Art Critic and Writer, he has been present in the art industry for over 50 years. A family man, committee member of the Lechwe Trust – ‘a charitable Trust for the Visual Arts in Zambia’, and he possesses the usual dynamic eccentricities of those omnipresent on the art scene. Our interview takes place at Twaya Art Gallery (twaya means “let go” in Bemba and Kaunde – both vernacular languages), set in the luxurious InterContinental Hotel, Lusaka. The hotel has many pieces from Twaya Gallery displayed beautifully on every floor, and preparations are underway for an end of year exhibition.
It is 13h15 on a weekday afternoon, dressed in classic Aquascutum print and tweed, he welcomes us to take a seat and we are offered a drink…
The Carat Soup: What does your role entail?
Roy Kausa: Hmm, this is a complex question. Put simply, I consult and write mainly about the visual arts and related events, both at home and abroad. Published in national and international media outlets, as well as online.
TCS: Who do you work with?
RK: The list is endless. Namely Artists, Trusts, Art Collectors, and investors looking for alternative assets. I also enjoy bringing people together, for example I recently received a message from an investor in London looking for an artist to commission a sculpture, so I put them in touch with one of the finest Sculptors here.
TCS: Describe the current art scene in Zambia?
RK: We are sitting on gold. It is fertile ground… There is a vibrant community of artists and those who appreciate their work, yet it is early days and still blossoming.
TCS: Which direction do you see the art industry going, in the next 5 – 10 years?
RK: As mentioned, it is fertile ground. Ideally, I’d like to see a travelling exhibition of artists, musicians, and writers. Working together with the respective [Embassy/Foreign Office] Missions for example we have done this in the past in London, and Stockholm. In the early 90s NORAD sponsored the first art workshops, with proceeds donated to handicapped children – it is a fantastic cause and the workshops were good.
TCS: What are the last 3 books you read or media you enjoy?
RK: I really enjoy documentaries, especially with a focus on the theme of the arts and artistic movements. I also like science fiction, and cartoons [pauses] it is mainly for the underlying humour, and abstract nature of the episodes and cartoon characters. The most impactful book I read recently is filled with poems by Saley; based at the World Bank, he is a Senegalese and Gambian art collector. We first met back in 2005, here in Zambia. He is a down to earth person, who loves Africa.
TCS: Favourite artist/work of art/art movement?
RK: Firstly Trevor Ford, he had a regular satirical cartoon in [the national paper] The Post. This links closely to what I said earlier, about the underlying messages that cartoons so often possess. Secondly, Richard Kambobe has fantastic pencil drawings, I’d recommend you look at examples of his work!
Lastly, Pablo Picasso. It sounds like an obvious choice, as he was so influential over many decades, influenced artists and was a true pioneer in his field and beyond. My reason is because I have the utmost respect for his honest approach and influences based on traditional and West African art; this led to the creation of many of his well known abstract Works and geometric pieces. It has been covered several times in the [Arts] press, and has recently come into the limelight again.
Our cultural manifestation is a total mix of wonderful cultures – this is present in our music, multiple languages, what we write, our art. All of which is heavily influenced by our [bordering] neighbours – Tanzania, Namibia, DRC, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana. All of which, at some point in our history, came to seek refuge here during times of struggle. Enormous gratitude to Kenneth Kaunda [Zambia’s legendary first President] as this period brought about real and authentic change. Now represents ‘the new language of African Culture’.
TCS: What motivates you to stay in this role/industry?
RK: This is a way of life for me. I trained as an artist, I remain driven by art, I live and breathe art. Life should not be regimented and what is deemed “normal”, there should be disturbances in the graph.
TCS: Anything else you’d like to tell us before we go?
RK: I have a passion to see the next generation of upcoming artists and patrons go to new heights of success – including visual artists, poets, playwrights and journalists. I do hope they are able to hone in on their respective specialities.
On the educational front, as long as the Zambian education system doesn’t have a degree level institution (for the arts), it shall be difficult to progress and move forward in the right direction. Why? This would act as an impetus, the students can come together to demand action and really put the arts on the map. Bachelor’s degrees at minimum, and later including Master’s degrees, as that would be even better; with the 50th anniversary (taking place in 2016) since the inception of The University of Zambia, ideally it would be great if Fine Arts & Media could be incorporated into university.