Kappata, Stephen (1936–2007) By Cantone, Helena
Stephen Chipango Kappata was born in Zambia in 1936 to Angolan migrant parents who had fled Angola during the Portuguese wars of conquest during World War I. Kappata began painting in 1969–1970, following a meeting with an artist who sold paintings depicting Victoria Falls in the local tourist market. At first Kappata sold his paintings to a largely local market centered around the town of Mongu. Following a brief period abroad in Britain, where he received some training in film, photography, and illustration, Kappata returned to Zambia. It was there, in 1982, that he met Anna-Lise Clausen, the Danish woman who helped organize Kappata’s first solo exhibition at the Mpapa Gallery in 1986. Kappata went on to take part in numerous international shows, including the Third Havana Biennial in Cuba in 1989. Kappata’s work is a complex interplay between satire and education, his paintings generally addressing three main themes: Zambians traditions, customs, and culture; the historical experience and injustice of colonialism; and social commentary on contemporary issues including alcoholism, AIDS, sexual promiscuity, and workers’ rights. Although Kappata’s work was in many ways marketed by a Western-driven African art market as “naive,” “self-trained” and “folkloristic,” today his paintings stand out as an important testament of Zambian and South African political and social history.