Mbusa-Making : An Artistic Practice of Well-being Among the Bemba of Zambia

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för kulturantropologi och etnologi

Abstract: This thesis is a contribution to a broader interdisciplinary exploration of the ways in which emotional well-being manifests in communal contexts. Using the artistic practice of Mbusa-making among the Bemba of Zambia as a case study, it understands emotional well-being as a relational practice and a dynamic process, not as an attained goal, an affective state, or a static situation. The data used for the thesis are drawn from previous research on the art of Mbusa, specifically that of Audrey Richards in the 1930s and of Bennetta Jules-Rosette in the 1970s, with supplementary distance interviews conducted by the author of this thesis, throughout 2020 and 2021. The thesis seeks to map out the experience of well-being with the utilization of conceptual tools given mainly by existential-phenomenological anthropology. Its main objective is to revisit some pioneer ethnographic studies, by focusing on Mbusa's underestimated link to emotional well-being, enriching them with contemporary theories on imagination,agency, and personhood. The thesis discusses the mainstream discourse on well-being as sit is associated with hapiness, physical health, and the social indicators for the quality of life among poor and wealthy nations. Thus, it places the practice of Mbusa amid that widespread approach, questioning it. The case of this Bemba practice in Zambia is used to illustrate the point that well-being is the universal, ever-present act of coping with adversity and to demonstrate its artistic and imaginative qualities that help people be in the world.

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