Ozhopé Collective (founded in 2017) is a group comprising two artists (Ella Banda and Massa Lemu), a photo/videographer (Tavwana Chirwa), and a writer (Emmanuel Ngwira). Ozhopé’s main concern is to collaboratively produce art that inspires conversations and invites people to critical thinking around issues that affect people’s quotidian existence. The group’s name derives from the word “wosopé”, a Yao term which translates as “all of them”. The word was uttered by an enthusiastic boy in reference to the artists who were busy with their work. It was subsequently adapted to “ozhopé” whose root speaks to the collective ethos that propels the group’s collaborative practice.
So far, Ozhope has been engaged in four projects. The first two, Row 1 and Row 2 are installments of a bigger project that aims to inspire conversations around Lake Malawi and the Malawi government’s intention to explore and drill for oil in the lake. These two projects, funded by Virginia Commonwealth University, are done in collaboration with fishing communities along the lake. The third project titled Zomba Market Conversations took the art produced along the shores of the lake in the form of images and short videos to a fish market at Zomba Central Market with the aim of inspiring conversations among fish vendors regarding the oil project and its implication on the vendors’ fish trade. The last project is about Covid-19 in Malawi. The project which is ongoing is funded by Pro-heveltia. Through memes and short video adaptations, the project deals with Covid-19 related issues affecting Malawi particularly those related to Covid-19 (mis)information and the country’s response to the pandemic.
Ella Banda is a visual artist, fashion designer, and educator based in Lilongwe, Malawi. She graduated from Chancellor College, University of Malawi with a Bachelors Degree in Education and Fine Art. Banda has worked as an educator for over five years and currently owns an early childhood center. As an artist, she has produced numerous commissioned pieces mostly working with oil, water and acrylic paint on canvas. Banda takes interest in visual art and photography that depicts African women as a symbol of power, endurance, passion, and nurturing. She also likes to depict the trending and controversial issues concerning women.
Tavwana Chirwa is a photo and videographer currently studying for an advanced diploma in Computing. As a photographer, Chirwa is interested in the magic and beauty of nature, portraiture and everyday life. He has shot mini video documentaries for International organizations including UNICEF, Medicine San Frontières, WORLD VISION, OXFAM, EU, AND UNFPA. Chirwa is very conversant with video and picture editing packages, including Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, After Effects and Premiere Pro.
Massa Lemu is a visual artist and writer whose multi-disciplinary artistic practice takes the form of text, performance, and multimedia installations that are concerned with the contradictions of migration, and the psychological effects of an immaterial, flexible and mobile capitalism on the post-colonial subject. Lemu makes interventions into objects, using aesthetics of politics to comment on the politics of aesthetics. His art has been exhibited at 1708 Gallery (Richmond, Virginia), Lawndale Arts Center and Rice University (Houston, Texas), and at University of Malawi, Chancellor College (Zomba, Malawi). As a writer, Lemu’s scholarly interests lie in what he calls a biopolitical collectivism in contemporary African art which he defines as an immaterial, subject-centered and collectivist art practice situated in everyday life. His writing has been published by Field Journal of Socially Engaged Art, The Burlington Contemporary, Wits University Press, Third Text, Stedelijk Studies Journal, and Contemporaryand. Lemu teaches in the Department of Sculpture + Extended Media at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Emmanuel Ngwira is a literary and cultural critic and Senior Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Malawi where he teaches (African) literature and popular arts. In 2018, he was Fulbright Scholar in the Comparative Literature Department at New York University, New York, USA. Ngwira’s research interests include the African Novel and 21st Century Migration, African/Malawian Popular Arts in the Digital Age and Refugees Creative Arts in Malawi. Some of his articles have appeared in internationally refereed journals such as Nordic Geographical Publications, Journal of Humanities, English Studies in Africa, Social Dynamics, Muziki, Current Writing and Journal of the African Literature Association.