A Place of Tall Trees

Zeela Art Gallery & Homestay is the eclectic brainchild of Charity and Bedah Salasini. Located off Leopards Hill Road in Lusaka, about 20 minutes away from the Crossroads Shopping Centre, this private art gallery is actually woven into the very fabric of the beautiful home and surrounding grounds of the Salasini’s. Zeela actually means ‘a place of tall trees’ in Mambwe and the property has plenty of tall trees to match it’s name.

I learned about the humble beginnings of these two passionate art enthusiasts who started collecting all the art on the property over 17 years ago. Today, they have collected over 200 art pieces comprising of paintings, marble sculptures and various wooden pieces. The Salasini’s exude such a genuine love for art and they attribute this lifelong passion project to a mutual interest for preserving nature and culture coupled with self expression and devotion through art. I begun my gallery tour with an indoor review of the various paintings and wooden pieces. The first room I saw in the house was dedicated to giving the Salasini kids an early start and exposure to art. Dubbed ‘creative minds’, this room demonstrated just how intentional the Salasini’s were about expanding their kids ability to express themselves through art from a young age. It’s not even surprising to see that the older kids have grown into artists in their own right.

The kids art room gave way to a great room which had several pieces dotted around walls and polished wooden floors. I especially appreciated the detail of Ceremonial Zambia painted by Gordon Shamulenga and artistry in The Band and Marriage wooden pieces. I moved on to view the different contemporary art pieces in the outdoor foyer which were inspired by different cultural roots.

Thereafter, I was pleased to meet Charity Salasini who was my guide for the remainder of the tour. We continued the tour with a short walk to the beginning of the 200 metre mural on the wall fence of their property which depicts the last 40 days and 40 nights of Jesus Christ’s life. The mural is accompanied by short descriptions of the paintings for the knowledge of all visitors. I actually got curious about the kind of paint they used to create the mural, as the pieces were painted directly onto the wall and did not seem to have faded at all. The mural is also accompanied by a wooden walkway that mirrors the winding path of life’s journey, it actually provided me with moments of reflection regarding my personal journey. I guess it’s in order to say that Zeela is an art gallery that appeals to the eyes, the mind and also the heart of its visitors.

“Life. It takes you through several doors of opportunity, gives you the chance to take a breather, to reflect and count your blessings but, it still keeps you uncomfortable enough to make you move forward so you can ultimately achieve your highest purpose.”

– Bongani B Kumar

After viewing the mural, I got to see the different marble pieces around the property. I learned that we actually have 5 types of marble that can be sourced right in the boundaries of Lusaka, each with its own unique colour. Zeela actually housed each variation of the white, grey, black, pink and brownish marble in different artistic expressions. I was pleased to see that almost all the 200 pieces had been made by Zambian artists, with the majority of the pieces being crafted by Gordon Shamulenga; Charles Chaambata; Caleb Chisha and Sydney Siansangu. Other notable pieces I saw were crafted by Chande Kapundu, Jonathan Leya, Serah Chibombwe, Flinto Chandia, Eddie Mumba, Rabson Phiri, Chifuchi Kandala, Smart Banda and Montfort Chinunda.

After the tour, we settled down in their insaka to have a refreshing drink and some local roasted groundnuts as we discussed the art and the Salasini’s inspirations in greater depth. This insaka actually has private chefs who prepare and serve meals and beverages to visitors at a fee (see menu below). I also got a chance to see their gift shop which stocked items all made on site by the Salasini’s and their team.

Zeela is marketed as a art gallery and homestay because they have two cottages on the property for members of the public that intend to have a breather or retreat, perhaps some solitude surrounded by nature in a place of tall trees. I learned that the facilities have been used by artists-in-residence and people who needed to spirituality reflect on their lives in a place of peace and zen. As you can tell, Zeela is quite the convergence of art, culture, nature and spirituality. I look forward to spending more time there in the near future.

Additional Information

  • Zeela is a private gallery at the Salasini’s home so it is only accessible to the public mostly on Friday’s , Saturday’s and Sunday’s. You are required to book in advance and pay a fee of ZMK 100 ($5) per adult for an entire tour of the estate.
  • You can contact the Salasini’s on 260 972 651 739 or 260 966 790 980 to book your visit.
  • To get to Zeela, drive along the leopards hill road until you get to the Lake Petroleum fuel station and take your next left. You will see signage as you turn left and the road is tarred. Drive down the this road until you reach the end of the tarred road where you will see another Zeela sign indicating that you should turn right. By all means turn right and drive up the hill until you get to a gate with wooden accents.
  • The homestay costs ZMK 300 ($15) for standard self contained room with a double bed and ZMK 500 ($25) for a small self contained apartment. These fees include WiFi, Aircon and English breakfast.
  • Merchandise in the gift shop costs about ZMK 50 ( $2.50) for a key ring, ZMK 180 ($9) for purse, ZMK 200 ($10) travel wallets and ZMK 300 ($15) for travel bags. You could contact the Salasini’s to purchase any items from the gift shop.
  • Remember to extend courtesy and be respectful of the surrounding and environment as Zeela is still a private residence.

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