Inside Manjarts Community Art Project

Art possesses the potential to unify communities, fostering a sense of identity and shared experience. Community art projects, public installations, and cultural events contribute to social cohesion and upliftment in various ways. A prime example of this intersection is Kelvin Mwanza’s community art project, the Manjarts Foundation, conceived from a desire to provide an outlet for the creative expression he observed in Kalingalinga, one of Lusaka’s high-density residential settlements.

Over recent years, what was previously perceived as a low-income district has evolved into an up-and-coming neighbourhood. Despite the increasing gentrification, Kalingalinga has yet to be seen as a locale suitable for hosting an art gallery—an amenity typically associated with so-called upper-class neighbourhoods. Nonetheless, it is within this community that Kelvin, a multidisciplinary artist based in Kalingalinga, established the Manjarts community art project. 

Through this humble space, the Manjarts gallery challenges this prevailing narrative. By transforming his backyard into a cornerstone of service to his community, Kelvin embodies his vision of creating a platform for local artists to progress their work and safeguard culture simultaneously. As an artist, Kelvin recognises the significance of art in shaping our understanding of the world and enriching lives in diverse ways.

Like any other gallery, Manjarts’ presence in the neighbourhood is a potent instrument for generating economic value. It attracts tourists and visitors from beyond the confines of the suburb and creates job opportunities for the youth by harnessing their talents to add value to their lives and communities.

Manjarts first opened its doors in 2020, inspired by childlike curiosity. Whenever Kelvin worked on a sculpture or painting, a small crowd of curious eyes would gather around him. Children from the neighbourhood would form groups to glimpse his latest creation, often lingering for hours anticipating the final artwork. After witnessing this spectacle several times, Kelvin had an epiphany: these children might be interested in creating art themselves. This inspired him to establish a place where youth could express themselves and learn the art of creation. ‘Manja‘, meaning ‘hands’ in ciNyanja, encapsulates the foundation’s philosophy: ‘It’s all the fruit of our hands; everything in Manjarts place is handcrafted with passion’.

“There’s nothing wrong with incorporating machinery when creating some forms of art, but I believe the best kind of art is created when you craft it with your hands,” Kelvin explains.

It’s no secret that low-income communities often witness youths turning to vices to survive or alleviate boredom due to the lack of resources and constructive recreational facilities. This underscores another principle in Manjarts’ philosophy: to create a safe space that positively influences Kalingalinga residents, particularly the youth, who constitute the majority of the suburb’s population.

“I’ve always admired the presence of a football pitch for the youth in our neighbourhood. It’s heartening to watch them engage in activities that steer them clear of negative influences; however, our community yearns for more social amenities,” Kelvin reflects.

Kalingalinga boasts a wealth of untapped potential, with many residents proficient in crafting doormats, paintings, and crafts. However, many of these pieces would be stored away due to the lack of facilities to showcase them. The foundation’s establishment empowers residents to realise their potential by fostering a positive environment to nurture their talents, where they can learn and earn a livelihood in the process.

Manjarts’ presence in the neighbourhood is reshaping the perception of Kalingalinga. It is swiftly gaining prominence as a trusted source for exploring tradition through various artistic expressions, encompassing paintings, sculptures, artefacts, and musical instruments, all housed within the gallery. Additionally, it serves as a cultural hub for acquiring traditional implements used in cultural festivities, such as chilanga mulilo (fire showing) and matebeto (a public feast where a wife appreciates her husband). 

Previously, Kabwata Cultural Village stood as a major bastion for cultural preservation and artistic expression in Lusaka, a role now shared with Manjarts. The proliferation of artistic endeavours like Manjarts is encouraging, marking a shift towards greater recognition and celebration of artistic pursuits. This movement signifies a positive evolution, where more creative minds contribute to the cultural tapestry of society, expanding the avenues for expression and preservation beyond traditional cultural hubs like the Kabwata Cultural Village. The emergence of such initiatives underscores a dynamic cultural landscape deserving widespread acknowledgement, support, and applause.

Kelvin envisions an expansive future for Manjarts, with plans to extend the art project into diverse neighbourhoods across Lusaka. His vision includes establishing a second, larger foundation branch along Kamloops Road. The mission is to indiscriminately bring cultural enrichment to communities that can benefit from it, enhancing educational opportunities, promoting local talent, boosting tourism, and making an economic impact. On his journey to realise this vision, Kelvin collaborates with various artisans and organisations that share a passion for art, storytelling, and cultural identity, fostering a network that fuels creativity throughout the city.

Amidst the challenges of gentrification and limited resources, the Manjarts Foundation stands as a beacon, revealing the transformative power of art within a community through vision and possibilities for the residents of Kalingalinga and similar areas. Manjarts challenges perceptions and actively shapes a positive narrative for Kalingalinga, proving that art can genuinely catalyse change and unity within a community when embraced at the grassroots level.


  • Kelvin’s artistic expression explores themes of everyday life and human connection.
  • The Manjarts Foundation was founded in artist Kelvin Mwanza’s backyard as a space for artistic expression in Kalingalinga.
  • The Manjarts Foundation is located off Kamloops Road, near the Nangwenya Road intersection.
  • The gallery doubles as a gift shop where various artworks and traditional ornaments can be purchased, including baskets, stools, and hand-carved wooden sculptures.

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