Zimbabwe Annual Exhibition 2015

Mharidzo

The National Gallery of Zimbabwe presents the second edition of the reintroduced annual show the Zimbabwe Annual Exhibition under the theme Mharidzo.

Mharidzo seeks to interrogate the role of the artist in questioning the religious fervor that has played a significant part in shaping our society today. It also seeks to give the artist a platform to hold forth on issues that are close to their hearts nekuparidza.

This exhibition explores the rites of passage for Zimbabwean contemporary art as well as showcase original work produced in the time period specified. Mharidzo seeks to provide an opportunity for resident Zimbabwean artists to tell their story using different mediums of sculpture, painting, photography, new media and installation.

The National Gallery of Zimbabwe has always emphasized on encouraging artists to produce their best work which in turn saw artists showcasing creative and original work. It is a platform for Zimbabweans artists to show their work. National Gallery of Zimbabwe strives to select the finest possible works of visual art which spring from the fertile culture of the region and showcase them regionally and internationally. In this respect art played the role of not just cataloging the history of the country but to take on an ambassadorial role. This has been seen through the staging of the Zimbabwe Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and many other shows that have been taking place at the gallery for many years.

Our public and private spaces are saturated by the collective consciousness of stories of old and new catastrophes. We have a wide range of predicament genres. While some choose to fixate on these calamities, the artists have chosen to channel the mishaps they have faced and dealt with into their artwork, and it is remarkable.

The Zimbabwean artist has been forced by circumstance to abandon the traditional materials used in the creation of artwork to use found objects and devise new avenues of expression. Zimbabwean artists have demonstrated that they will not give up their creative spirit and are skilled artisans who absorb tradition and whose skills are grounded in a larger framework of participation. This is an artist who takes human imagination and creativity seriously and is the metaphoric preacher. On this note the National Gallery of Zimbabwe wants to thank the participating artists for responding to the call.

These works in this exhibition show how experiences can be reworked, playing upon the desires engendered by our present circumstances: desires to escape, to heal, to question and reinvent. The artists allow us to look beyond the present reality, and remind us that whatever we are feeling, and whatever we fear, is a shared consciousness.

Mharidzo is more than a conversation; it is an exhortation to critically look at the way we now worship. Some of the work speaks calmly in conversational if oratorical prose, some up the tempo speaking excitedly and the others speak on an emotional peak in which the visual speech becomes tonal and merges with the emotions of the audience.

These works engage us at ground level and we are able to relate as they reflect the individual struggle with the burdens that evoke the feelings of the collective. We can only grow through these creative people whose dreams keep getting bigger and better.

Lovemore Kambudzi’s Lunar Park which won the first prize encourages families to spend quality time together. Anthony Bumhira’s Kuna Baba Kune Dzimba Dzakawanda is a visual interpretation of John 14:2. Danisile Ncube’s Bondage is a warning against wickedness, how people are living on the precipice ready to self-destruct. Masangwale’s Mharidzo speaks of the need to be identified by our culture which is echoed by Option Nyahunzvi’s Vanhasi Vakangamwa Vadzimu Vavo which is a warning against copying others, against cultural appropriation.

These are just a few of the powerful creations submitted this year by every type of mind for the valiant selection committee. The astounding progress the artists have made is a reflection of the wonderfully rich and varied culture of the art that is the trademark of Zimbabwe and that which the National Gallery of Zimbabwe stands for.

The images:

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A conversation with Tapfuma Gutsa

What is your creative process like?
I am restless and intuitive. There was a time I was interested in social issues but of late, I am more concerned with form within its pure sense. My involvement with basketry has had an influence because of its rudimentary vocabulary that lends itself to abstraction. I love new material associations that come from nature.

How has your style changed over the years?
I would rather not be remembered for style but for thought process. My work is fluid and responds to my immediate surroundings and sometimes to specific events. The thought process in fabrication defines the final configuration of a given work.

What has been your greatest artistic success?
Art touches people. I have seen people cry while viewing my work and some claiming they were healed by it. Perhaps one aspect I am humbled by is my mentor-ship of other artists.

Do you experience creative blocks?
Everyone does experience blocks. When I do, I take a break and do things like fishing or visit my favourite people like Thakor or Paul.

What do you wish you knew about sculpture before you got started?
I am lucky in that I have always been making things since childhood. I was mildly surprised when my work was pronounced ‘art’! As herd boy, I used to read forms in the trees and granite boulders of Murehwa.

What is the most challenging part about working with natural materials?
I think the most difficult part is truthfulness to the material instead of acting clever. One strives to turn the mundane into the out of the ordinary.

It has been said that your use of materials ‘both advances and subverts the tradition of stone sculpture that dominated Zimbabwean art through the 1960s and 1970s’. Can you tell us more about this?
I have a natural flair for materials and a formidable vocabulary in terms of form and imagination. Perhaps therein lie the advances. I was taught wood carving by the legendary Cornelius Manguma who instilled line into my practice. That trait was further nurtured by Mukomberanwa. One thing I am glad for is that I escaped McEwen because he defined the art of an era to which I would have rebelled. In fact, he was of the opinion that I polluted a pure art form! I think the most lasting mark Sango, Masaya and myself left is that we secularised art. The reason was that we came into art at the end of revolution and wanted to look at the world with new eyes unhampered by the shackled mindset of the colonial regime. I guess because we were somewhat educated, we were aware of art in much more universal way as opposed to the provincial which was encouraged before independence. This led to mixed media. I am also luck to have studied in the UK and participated in numerous Triangle workshops that opened up new avenues of thought.

Do you do anything in particular to seal your paintwork?
I am still experimenting with things like DM6 and wax. Any suggestions? Talking of painting, it has been a refreshing challenge.

Why the title ‘Mutations and Permutations: A Situationist Proposal’?
I am looking at some philosophical issues especially the relation of numbers, growth and how organisms and ideas propagate. Since I came back to Zimbabwe, I have had to adjust my practice to suit the time. Working with Daniel and Rony also presented specific challenges on how to keep the studio open in a time when work is not selling. We have managed so much ex nihil and over time have been developing a theoretical definition of our practice through which we discovered that in the mid 20th century, just after the war, there was a group of artists and activists who called themselves Situationists who were more proactive than the existentialists. We believe that with art, we can cause positive change to society.

How does this exhibition define your career?
I bearing my soul here and am prepared to make a fool of myself. That the gallery has given me so much space and leeway is a great honour and responsibility, the thing is to rise to the occasion.

Where do you see your work going after this exhibition?
Art is the only thing I know so I am going to create more challenges. Of late, I have been thinking of cutting stone again. I think I can still contribute towards the movement. It would also be nice to set a school situation whereby I can impart some skills. At 59, one thinks matters of legacy.

Tapfuma Gutsa’s exhibition Mutations and Permutations: A Situationist Proposal officially opened on the 8th of October 2015 at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare.

Mutations and Permutations

Mutations and Permutations: A Situationist Proposal is an exhibition featuring Tapfuma Gutsa and two mentees; Daniel Chimurure and Ronald Mutemeri. This exhibition brings a new body of work from this veteran artist, and from his two mentees, work that compliments his vision. Working from their studio at the Harare Polytechnic since 2011 the situationist artists’ initiative is a force to be reckoned with. The environment we are living in at this particular moment inspires the situationists’ new theory and this exhibition is their response.

At this point allow me to revisit Tapfuma Gutsa’s influence in the Zimbabwean art scene. Why him and why is he such an important artist to celebrate in this exhibition? His resilience, creative mind, ideas, passion, life, struggles and hard work is what makes him what he is. It is this that you cannot take away from him; for this veteran artist always surprises his audience with a new language. Art has a mystical existence of its own, its own sacred energy that artists like Tapfuma Gutsa continue to tap into.

Throughout his career Tapfuma Gutsa has always used art as a territory of freedom and imagination. Tapfuma Gutsa is a strong believer that an artist should not stand still and the Mutations and Permutations: A Situationist Proposal exhibition is a living example of his own words. Going in and out of his studio for the past five years I have realized that Tapfuma Gutsa is deeply aware of his own intentions in his art making processes. The National Gallery of Zimbabwe celebrates not only his work but also his life as a seasoned artist, an artist that has grown over the years. It is my hope that the visitors to this exhibition will be enriched by Tapfuma Gutsa’s intentions in art making.

A few years ago, Tapfuma Gutsa developed a Mulonga body of work that was inspired by the Tonga people of the Zambezi Valley. This body of work is part of Mutations and Permutations: A Situationist Proposal. Mulonga was created after Tapfuma Gutsa’s participation at the 1st Zimbabwe Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011. It was then that Tapfuma Gutsa met his two mentees at the Harare Polytechnic and the Mulonga journey started culminating in the new realization of the Mutations and Permutations: A Situationist Proposal exhibition. In this exhibition the Zimbabwean situationist guru Tapfuma Gutsa did not work with stone sculpture on a large scale but explored more on wood sculpture and found objects. He resorted to a more complex geometry of triangles, shapes, circles, weaving and disjunctions. Freely putting paint on canvas without getting frozen into formations of rigid meanings is what Tapfuma Gutsa is known for in his art making.

Tapfuma Gutsa’s lasting contribution to the global art scene both intellectually and institutionally is what we are celebrating. His postcolonial aesthetic that has evolved over his lifetime is well articulated in his work and his entry into the Zimbabwean art world in the 1980s defined contemporary art. Giving birth to Utonga – an artist initiative which Tapfuma Gutsa started in Mabvuku/Tafara for artists to come and work together – created a new generation of artists that came after him with the likes of Dominic Benhura, Raphael Mavhudzi, and Eddie Masaya to mention just a few.

Today Mutations and Permutations: A Situationist Proposal exhibition occupies, the Courtauld Gallery, East Gallery, South Gallery and all the corridors. Tapfuma Gutsa’s mentees Daniel Chimurure and Ronald Mutemeri occupy the East Gallery complementing their master.

Statement of the day

“We are Namibians and not South Africans. South West Africa is our own land and we wish to be our own masters. We believe South Africa has robbed us of our country. We do not recognize your rights to govern us, to treat our country as if it were your property and as if you are our masters”.

These are the words by Tateguru Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo during his trial by the Apartheid Government after which he was imprisoned for twenty years at Robben Island along with other SWAPO Freedom Fighters. After watching a documentary by Papa Hishishi and Philip Miller entitled ” Paths to Freedom”, I got to understand the history of the liberation movement of Namibia.

Tanzania and its founding father Baba wa Taifa Julius Kambaragi Nyerere remains unarguably the Hero of Africa. When one watches Paths to Freedom, one can better understand what the Namibians went through to liberate their country. Many other Southern African countries went through the same trials and tribulations to free their countries. I am now dreaming of a Museum of the African Liberation Movements to be built in Tanzania in honour of Mzee Baba wa Taifa Julius Kambaragi Nyerere and all the people who fought to liberate the continent.

It is my Hope that this dream will be realized. As we move forward it is important to keep telling our history; our story. We must strive not to remain passengers in our own ship. If we fail to tell our own history, it will be told by others from their own perspectives and our voice will be silenced.

Hishishi Papa Shikongeni, Richard Pakleppa, Philip Miller you made my day. Not to forget the Freedom Fighters and those that cooked for you on your journey to Uhuru, Tateguru Toivo ya Toivo, Priskilia Tuhadeleni, Thate Hifikepunye Pohamba, Mzee Lahya Iyambo, Baba Tateguru Sam Nujoma, Mzee Helao Shityuwete, Amai Jestina Amalwa, Mzee Tategulu Kambo Shixungeleni, Amai Nora Schimming – Chase, Mzee Tategulu Gerson Vell, Baba General John Nankundhu and many others; the list is endless. Your story tells us as a young generation that freedom did not just happen on its own but people like you put your lives, and families at risk because you wanted freedom. You freed our countries from those that wanted to remain our teachers. Your energy and determination was and is still strong.

When I hear your voices I can feel what really was happening at that time. It is real like it happened today. I salute those that were killed during the struggle. For ICC during the colonial era I say, you denied us our independence but we got it through these men. ICC has not changed its colours for the apartheid perpetrators are still walking freely without a single word from ICC. Many crimes were committed as a result of slavery and colonialism but still ironically the ICC remains silent and claim to the judge of human rights. Africa has waited for the reparations for crimes committed during slavery and colonialism and we keep waiting and it remains my hope that all our generation will understand our journey to self rule.

The time between 1945 and 1960 was  for Africa the time to demand freedom from the settlers. The  African Liberation Movements had to make sure that Africa got liberated and many of Africa’s Founding Fathers made sure we had total independence. I keep learning as I travel throughout Africa and the World, Africa has come a long way. A life of sacrifice by these man made us who we are and all we can do is to record their stories before they die because they will die with their stories and we will have ourselves to blame.

My father and many others across the continent fought for the French Empire, British Empire and Germany Empire and in return they got nothing. Some have died poor and others are still swimming in poverty. My African Heroes Film which was sponsored by IWMN north brought the story of these men to the British audience. They are the Forgotten Heroes of the empire. Aluta Continua. It’s not yet Uhuru because Cultural Liberation is far from over. We still want our culture back.

The Basel Art Fair

The Basel Art Fair is one of the biggest art fairs in the world and an opportunity like this is not to be missed by any art professional. The Basel Art Fair is not just an art fair but a big networking platform where ideas are exchanged, art is seen and the gospel of contemporary art is interrogated and preached. Projects are muted on platforms like the Basel Art Fair. As the National Gallery of Zimbabwe Curator’ this was an opportunity to see what is happening around the global art market, to network and share with others in the field. The most important Gallerists, Curators, artists and researchers come to Basel hence it is an important platform to acquaint one with global trends. When I received an invitation from the Marina Mottin of the Basel Art Fair I thought of the importance of Zimbabwe’s visibility at this international assembly. Most importantly I met with my mentor Andreas Meirer. He is the one who invited me in 2001, to the Centre Pas Qaurt in Switzerland for a residence which included a trip to Venice and Basel. This reunification was very important for me because working under his mentorship provided me with an opportunity to have a dream for the Zimbabwean Pavilion in Venice which I realized ten years later through the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.

The Basel Art Fair was a great opportunity for me. I had an opportunity to hold meetings with other professionals from Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Europe and America for possible collaboration. I was privileged to be part of the Art: Basel Salon where I had an opportunity to converse with other art professionals like Mark Coetzee, Koyo from Raw Material Company Dakar, Turia from 1:54, Simon Njami, and many others from around the world. Being part of this discussion about building art institutions in Africa at the Basel Art Fair afforded me a chance for self-introspection and look at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe as a public art institution and ask the pertinent question: where do we stand? I was then able to take stock at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe programming and its relevance to the global discourse of art. Zimbabwe is a country with a long tradition of art and those that came before us like the first Director of the National Gallery Frank McEwen, provided an opportunity for Zimbabwean artists to take part in a number of international exhibitions. The current Executive Director, Mrs. Doreen Sibanda has the same vision and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe is one of the leading art institutions in Africa today as a result. This is evidenced by the number of international programs we have. Like the 2013 collaboration between the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and the Pigorrini Museum in Rome through the Zimbabwean Embassy in Rome. Ambassador Mary Mubi was very instrumental in the success of not only that exhibition but the Venice Biennale project as well. The current Ambassador Magwenzi is also very helpful in this regard and the National gallery of Zimbabwe is honored to be able to do these international projects.

This visit was good for Zimbabwe and its artists for we need to keep preaching the Gospel of Zimbabwean art and an opportunity of this nature is important as our international presence is important. It was also an opportunity to expand our network as a Gallery and remember the National Gallery of Zimbabwe is an international art institution that needs to expand its network beyond Africa and the Basel Art Fair offers this opportunity.

Zimbabwe’s presence at the 56th Venice Biennale is an important step that as nation we took. The visit to the Basel Art Fair is another important step to lay ground for further international participation and inform the international community about Zimbabwean Art. It is also an opportunity to share with the global art scene the developments in contemporary art in Zimbabwe. As a country we must value these platforms for inform our thinking and also create an opportunity, to be claim our bit in the global art scene. For many years Zimbabwe had been part of the global art scene but we had taken too many steps back and need to bounce back.

After the Basel Art Fair I was able to attend meetings in Germany in preparation for yet another international exhibition on migration that will start in Zimbabwe, move to Uganda and eventually to Germany. This is a collaborative project with Oldenburg University, Makerere University Gallery and Museum in Bremen. This exhibition will provide a platform for East and Southern African artists to interrogate migration issues that are very topical globally today. The exhibition will start in early 2016 and end in September 2016 in Brem.

Link to the conversation video:

Statement of the day

We have decolonised Africa politically. Colonialism is dead but coloniality lives and decoloniality still lives. Our consciousness as a people was a colonial consciousness constructed by missionaries and political figures. It still remains in us. We are unchained, but we are still walking around shackled. –  Prof Pikita Ntuli.

http://www.radicate.eu/raphael-chikukwa/;

http://www.herald.co.zw/curator-reflects-on-basel-art-fair/

http://borderbeing.com/2015/06/21/black-portraitures-whose-black-is-it/