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Root Work Journal - Summoning Flight - Volume 2, Issue 1

Ukupupuka: Transcendence, Flight and Inculturation in Zambian Devotional Artwork

Aaron Samuel Mulenga




This paper seeks to interrogate the tensions and overlaps in various representations of transcendence that have shaped my spirituality by interrogating how these have featured in Eurocentric Christian iconography and Zambian cultural practices, particularly cultural artefacts used for spiritual flight, housed in Zambian museums. Transcendence is understood by some as a change in a person’s physiological or psychological state that allows them to go beyond their experience of time, place or being. I understand transcendence to be the moment that one’s spirit is elevated beyond the limitations of their physical body. The use of Biblical text relating to flight will also be discussed as a comparative study to explore how transcendence through flight operates within Christianity and a Zambian cultural context. This paper also explores how the work of an artist in Zambia is grappling with concepts of representation of black people in Christian iconography.


Aaron is a Visual Studies Ph.D. student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His area of study includes contemporary art of Africa, post-colonial theory and the roles that museums play in shaping cultural narratives. Mulenga is a multi-disciplined artist with a keen interest in sculptural forms and installation. Mulenga uses his art practice to inform aspects of his doctoral research process.


Citation: Mulenga, A. S. (2022). Ukupupuka: Transcendence, Flight and Inculturation in Zambian Devotional Artwork. Root Work Journal, 2(1).


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