Samson Kambalu & The Holy Ball
When walking through the streets of Bromley By Bow, looking at the dirty grey concrete buildings that punctuate the skyline it’s easy to think of it as a cultural void, lacking any inspiration or creation. That illusion is shattered once one enters an old disused fire station which serves as the home and studio to conceptual artist Samson Kambalu.
Kambalu grew up in Southern Africa drawing influence from a diverse range of characters that have patterned his life thus far, Kambalu’s signature work Holy Ball is a piece he first conceived back in Malawi. The artist took a ball and plastered it with pages from the bible, an intermingling of his early Christian upbringing and his love of football. Kambalu has created installations with his Holy Balls where he invites people to come and ‘exercise and exorcise’. “I developed a post secular theory called Hollyballism, I grew up with traditional Christian values and I’m constantly re-examining them and putting them into new context, when I ask people to exercise and exorcise it can take many forms, I’ve asked people to graffiti the walls and just write whatever they feel about the art, self expressionism should be part of it.”
Kambalu tells me that Holy Ball felt important enough to him to try and extend it as a philosophy – looking around the artist’s studio it’s evident that philosophy and literature play a big part in Samson’s life and his art, seemingly placed in every spare space of the studio is his impressive collection of books, many philosophical greats among them – “I enjoy Nietzsche and have read a lot of him, I like what he said and I like how he looked, that’s why I did that self portrait.” He points to a photograph of himself on the wall and laughs as he tells me, “I like the moustache; it made me feel like a philosopher when I had that on, I suppose what I’m trying to do with Holyballism is turn the idea of monotheism on its head the ball represents the sun and its positive pagan associations.” This is shown in The Fall of Man, a continuation of the Holy Ball work, where Kambalu takes all the words from Genesis and arranges white type in alphabetical order on coloured walls, producing new meanings from the ancient Bible text. Yet keeping some of the original sentiment with apples placed at the bottom, the whole work is evidence of the artist’s desire to re-order religion and religious dogma through art “I want people to get a real feel for me and who I am. At the moment I have embarked on a novel adventure based on Peter Boxall’s 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I’ve called the project Alexander Shaftesbury; it’s sort of a departure point from Holyballism. After I’ve read each book, I write what I’ve felt about that book and those are a representation of my philosophies. I am experimenting with putting these writings on canvas. The books go to make up the Holy Ball Library. “Holyballism is a part of me, so anything I do from now on will always have a bit of the Holy Ball.”
Samson Kambalu will be having an open day at his Studios in Bromley By-Bow on June 1st go to http://www.holyballism.com/ for details
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Roli Rivelino is a writer in London.