Caleb Chisha joined the Visual Arts Council (VAC) on the Copperbelt when he was only in grade 8 where he became its youngest member. Upon completing school, the Ndola-bred painter decided to migrate to Lusaka in pursuit of better prospects in art, a more positive twist to the infamous “Zimandola” (an unflattering street name for people who come from Ndola) migrations that have seen scores of sharp-witted youths leave the Copperbelt to come and hustle for a living on the streets of the capital as homeless youths, pickpockets, ladies of the night and thugs.
But like many young Zambian artists he is in a dilemma as to whether he should pursue an art diploma at the Evelyn Hone College or attempt the fine art degree programme that the Open University only recently started offering. Although he has not had any formal academic art training beyond completing grade 12 at Kansenshi High School in 2006, he has managed to develop by mingling with artists more experienced than himself. “After some time VAC in Ndola was closed, so I felt it was going to be difficult for me to develop. And also I wanted to meet Nsofwa Bowa (the sculptor), because I had been following his work closely while in Ndola, he has been my biggest inspiration,” explains Chisha from his studio space at the Art Academy Without Walls in the Lusaka showgrounds where he spends most of his time, at times even painting overnight “I am also inspired by Thompson Namukaba, and I also like the work of Stary and Ngandwe Mwaba”.
Preferring the use of oil on canvas, Chisha says for his subject matter, he is inspired by daily life, by struggles as well as happy moments. But even so he tries to inscribe a deeper meaning in to each and every painting. He is also constantly experimenting with the use of textures, infusing them onto his canvases. “Scared Of Tomorrow”, a painting of a boy who pensively stares into oblivion, holds a real life face towel in his hands, that is either sewn or stuck onto the canvas giving the work a three dimensional feel similarly in “Ichilanga Mulilo” where a bride’s family brings traditional food to the groom’s family and friends as per Bemba custom, he employs the use of sawdust to give a relief effect to the plaited hair of one of the women in the painting, a technique that makes the hair look quite real.