World-renowned artist Samson Kambalu to deliver IDS Annual Lecture

Published on 18 October 2021

The Institute of Development Studies is delighted to confirm that Malawian born artist Samson Kambalu will deliver this year’s IDS Annual Lecture, which will be livestreamed publicly on Thursday 25 November. Samson is a globally renowned artist and intellectual whose Antelope sculpture will feature on London Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth in 2022.

Samson will use the lecture to discuss The Antelope and the Problematic of the Gift as a dominant cultural form in Africa. Recently selected for the fourth plinth, the Antelope public sculpture features the Malawian Baptist preacher and Pan-Africanist John Chilembwe and speaks to some of the most pressing issues in development – colonial legacies, power imbalances and challenging dominant hierarchies.

He will share his perspective on how African arts and cultures can provide a lens to understand and deconstruct western interpretations of Africa in order to recast development. This will include his exploration of the gift economy, Nyau philosophy and the role of art and creativity within it.

Samson’s presentation aligns with IDS’ commitment to interdisciplinarity and belief that to achieve radical, progressive change we need to bring together diverse knowledges, perspectives and forms of expertise from different countries, sectors, sciences, arts and humanities. It follows IDS joining more than 30 global institutions in signing the Jena Declaration calling for a new regionally and culturally diverse approach to achieve the SDGs.

Through his talk Samson will also share his personal experiences of growing up in Malawi and becoming an international artist and Professor at Oxford University.

The lecture will include short films, images and other works that form the core of Samson’s work as a contemporary artist.

About the speaker

Samson Kambalu is an artist and writer working in a variety of media, including site-specific installation, video, performance and literature. His work is autobiographical and approaches art as an arena for critical thought and sovereign activities. Born in Malawi, Kambalu’s work fuses aspects of the Nyau masking culture of the Chewa, the anti-reification theories of the Situationist movement and the Protestant tradition of inquiry, criticism and dissent.

Kambalu’s first book, an autobiographical novel of his childhood upbringing in Malawi, The Jive Talker, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2008 and toured around Europe for four years. He has been featured in major exhibitions and projects worldwide, including the Dakar Biennale (2014, 2016), Tokyo International Art Festival (2009) and the Liverpool Biennial (2004, 2016). He was included in All the World’s Futures, Venice Biennale 2015, curated by Okwui Enwezor. His public sculpture Antelope, featuring the Malawian Baptist preacher and Pan-Africanist John Chilembwe (cf. above), has recently been selected to go on the Fourth Plinth, in Trafalgar Square, London, in 2022.

Kambalu attended Kamuzu Academy (1989-1995), then studied at the University of Malawi (BA Fine Art and Ethnomusicology). In England he continued his studies at Nottingham Trent University (MA Fine Art) and then Chelsea College of Art and Design (PhD Fine Art). Having begun his academic career at the University of Malawi, he has won research fellowships with Yale University and the Smithsonian Institution, and is now a Professor of Fine Art at the Ruskin School of Art, and a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford.

Register to watch online

Key contacts


About this news item

Related content