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Exploring the idea of beauty

Dubai-based Zambian artist Victor Sitali’s latest show is titled Okongola, which means ‘beautiful’ in the Zambian language, Nyanja. The young artist, who is known for his portraits, is presenting two new series of paintings that explore the idea of beauty in different ways.

Sitali lost his hearing when he was three years old and communicates through sign language but discovering the artist within him has helped him to find his voice again. He honed his skills at Mawaheb, an art studio for adults with determination. Mawaheb also arranged for him to train with well-known British artist Trevor Waugh, and encouraged him to get a degree in Graphic Design helping him to become a professional artist.

“My voice is heard through my art. My world may be silent, but it is rich with colours and textures through which I can express my emotions and experiences. The fact that I cannot hear has undoubtedly helped me to fine tune my eye for all things around me,” he says.

Sitali’s Chilengwaleza series is based on an unusual subject that he was drawn to because of his own struggle in life. It features portraits of African albinos, including Shaun Ross, a well-known international model.

“Many Africans believe that Chilengwaleza as these fair skinned people as called, bring bad luck and they are even hunted down and killed for ritual beliefs. I just cannot understand why a condition caused by a genetic defect should be the reason for such discrimination and reverse kind of racism that causes these people to live in fear of being beaten or slaughtered mercilessly. As someone who has what people call a ‘defect’, I understand the pain and suffering of these ‘white’ Africans and wanted to give them a voice through my paintings,” Sitali says.

“This project was triggered when I found images of Ross on the internet and got in touch with him. His story has inspired me to create this series of portraits of African adults and children with albinism. It depicts their beauty and inner strength and offers a positive message of hope to everyone who is struggling against prejudice and injustice in society,” he adds.

The other series in the show, Tribal Collection, features portraits of African men and women in traditional clothing, jewellery, with face and body markings.

“I realise that their animal inspired tribal masks, accessories and body markings make these people look fierce, so I have tried to soften the look by surrounding them with flowers and other elements of nature. I want to show the beauty of these people and their close relationship with nature through this series,” Sitali says.

The show will run at Create Hub Gallery, Al Quoz, until February 24.