Huwiler stays busy through her works in film and theatre and also promoting African artworks through her exhibitions in both New York and Los Angeles. We asked her a few questions about her acting career, interest in art and travels.
Q. I read in the current edition of “Los Angeles” magazine a quote from Susan Holmes, a model who is married to a former bassist from Gun N’ Roses. She says – “Rock stars and models have a lot in common. We both live on airplanes”. Is this true!?
Super models for sure!
My mother has always been a collector and promoter of African Art, so it was something I grew up around and have a strong interest in. I know a lot of African artists personally and feel invested in their work, so I was keen to help them get their work out onto an international platform. Contemporary African art is a field that is rather unexploited and has little exposure outside of Africa, so I’ve been involved in creating exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles to bring this work to the consciousness of international collectors. All the work is such a wonderful expression of modern Africa with its many hybrid influences, and provides a fascinating insight into a transforming society.
Q. You have a strong passion for African art – my family has collected Shona Art from Zimbabwe for many years – are there any types of contemporary art or artists from Zambia that you can recommend?
I love Lutanda Mwamba’s work, and Mwamba Muluangala’s… both are experimenting with innovative styles not traditionally associated with African Art, which creates particularly unique work. Its hip and edgy, yet firmly rooted in a tradition that draws thematically on Africa.
Q. Los Angeles is a long ways from where you grew up in Lusaka – what or who inspired you to pursue acting, theatre and film? Was it specific experiences in your formative years growing up in Africa or something else?
Since I was about six I always knew I wanted to act and took every opportunity to do so. I wrote plays as a kid, created puppet shows, performed them for family, did school plays and then later discovered the films I truly love. Zambia had no cinemas at the time, so we’d fly to South Africa and I’d gorge myself sometimes watching up to four films at a cinema in succession! It took me a while to come into contact with the more independent arthouse films that I adore today because so little of that works filters to Zambia! But once I did, I sought them out and that’s how I spend most of my time now… Reading independent scripts, watching arty movies and creating them!
Q. You have an upcoming role in a production at the Electric Lodge in Venice – tell us more about this.
We’re doing a play called Valley Song, written by Athol Fughard. I’m working with a friend of mine, Patrick Ssenjovu who will be directing and Paul de Sousa who will be acting in it. Its based on a girl in South Africa and her dreams of a new life after the fall of apartheid… in a way it parallels a lot of hope that youth have in a post Obama era, though perhaps not as acutely! As a cast, we’re all from Africa so we have a strong connection to the work.
The worst…. Hmmm. Hard to say, as bad experiences tend to turn into comical ones and then I no longer think of them as negative! The worst part is being stuck in a plane for hours, or in airports which becomes a hellish purgatory. Having to fly home directly from the US with 17 hour flights and followed by connections and layovers definitely sucks…
Q. Any favorite airports and why are they your favorites?
Heathrow terminal five because they have facials and messages in the duty free while you wait… The best (that makes me sounds so spoilt, but it’s a welcome treat before or after long awful flights!) And Johanesburg airport… I was at the airport during the world cup when South Africa played France. When Bafana Bafana scored a goal, a group of traditional Zulu dancers busted out in the duty free, and did this fantastic animated dance. Where else in the world are you going to experience that between all the designer stores!
Q. Tell us about some of the charity works you are involved in and their tangible benefits? What is Sunchild Productions, your involvement with them and how are you encouraging/supporting social entrepreneurship rather than direct financial aid to those in need?
Well the gallery work, helps fine artists and all of the people they support and train. By buying their work, you help artists in Africa have a sustainable income and support the educational work they do. As there are few formal art schools, artists take on many apprentices who in turn learn a productive vocation, so supporting the artists is imperative. In the future I aim to make films in Africa as well, similar to the “Nos In Cinema” model used in Brazil to create films like City of God. I’d like to use children and all local crews to build a small film industry in my part of the world. This provides work, a vocation, and a whole new product in this part of the world. Dambiso Moyo writes about dead aid, and the importance of entrepreneurship rather than aid; creating viable industries that people can work in, rather than constant charities that create dependence. I think this is a crucial step forward in development work in Africa, and I hope through the industry I’m most passionate about we can also make a difference.
Q. I’ve been to Africa a number of times but not yet to Zambia. Zambia’s wildlife and Victoria Falls look amazing. For any of our readers who are planning a trip to Africa perhaps you can convince them to choose Zambia – in addition to the wildlife and the falls what are some other must see attractions or activities in Zambia?
All the national parks are incredible, North Luangwa, South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi… And if you can, try Safari by air at sunset to really see all the herds, or on horseback to feel like you’re part of the wildlife. For the adventurous types, there’s bungi jumping and white water rafting at Victoria Falls and for those who enjoy something more relaxed, a historical a visit to Shiwa Ngandu is a must. Its colonial a mansion built up in the North by a somewhat eccentric English Gentleman, which has been converted into lodge. It’s a fascinating account of the colonial period in Zambia… Zambia has endless waterfalls all over the country- a real life Pandora. If you head North stop at Kudalila Falls, it’s a magical place!
Q. Since you now spend time in Los Angeles – what are some of your favorite activities and or places to visit in or around the city?
All the little indie cinemas, I love the New Beverly Cinema with fresh popcorn and tees; they play all sorts of the old movies. And I love hiking in the hills here, its wonderful to have space and trees again after two years in New York, I try to take advantage of that whenever I can!
In her senior year she wrote and acted in the one woman show My True North, as part of her final undergraduate acting work. The solo show was performed at both the Strasburg Studio at Brown University and later in New York at the Geraldine Page Institute. After graduating she moved to New York and continued working in theatre performing in The Vagina Monologues, and later with Nigerian actress and director Okwui Okpowalisi in Pent Up: a Revenge Dance and PS 122. She continues to work in film and theatre in New York and Los Angeles, and is currently preparing for the role of Venronica in Valley Song by Athol Fughard, which will be performed at the Electric Lodge Theatre in Venice, Los Angeles.