Angolan hero remembered in exhibition

Stephen Garan’anga Own Correspondent
The life of Angola’s Agostinho Neto and his cultural and political exploits are on spotlight at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe through artworks of highly creative veteran Julius “Chidhongoringo” Mushambadope and dynamic and upcoming Tawanda Takura. The two created a significant piece of history about the oppression of Africans.

They were furnished with various Dr Agostinho Neto’s poems which were inspired by the struggles to free the native Africans at the wrath of colonial bondage and the memories of the catastrophes of the Angolans during their armed struggle to free themselves from invaders. Mushambadope produced all the wall furnishings of the Courtauld gallery with his successful satirical way of panting, mostly of figurative representational abstract on both massive and fairly sized canvases.

On the other hand Takura hits the jackpot with his never before seen on the local art landscape three dimensional ensembles covered by the stitching together of various degenerated skins and soles of various shoe brands using shoe laces.

He produced the entirety of the dimensional work on the floor and suspended in the exhibiting space. His expertise as a former shoemaker produces a magnetic force that one cannot repel to have an up close analysis and gratification.

His massive mixed media pieces such as “Matyr (A luta continua)”, “Selfless Cause”, Segrada Esperanza and “Nhapwa” reflect the agony of many Angolans who lost limbs and continued to be tortured but never gave up the fight for freedom from the oppressors. His other works include “Angola”, “Soft Diplomacy”, “Untitled”, “Portrait of the late Agostinho Neto” and “Massacre de Icolo e Bengo” to highlight some.

Julius was strongly moved by the power of Agostinho Neto’s poetry which he considered as thorns in the flesh or eyes of the invaders to create such works in series as “Munzwa wemashoko” (Thorny statement) and “Munzwa weziso”.

In his statement Mushambadope expressed that “Son of the soil. Of a people who refused to be ruled by foreigners. Chosen by the ancestors of Angola to represent the needs of the African people. His words, thorns in the sides of the invaders. His words drew the eyes of many, they heard the cries. Many wanted to witness first hand and landed in Angola. They were satisfied by what he was doing. The colonialists exposed, tried to frighten the Angolan people so they would not support Neto. All this was in vain; Neto’s words were the thorns that brought pain. The pain became lessons and emboldened the people to fight”.

Mushambadope also has “Hurandamu Angola”, “Kutsikwa naTateguru”, “Chimwechete”, “Vakushi”, “Nzara Mumba”, “Nhapitapi Yemuchero”, “Mhemberero I and II”, “Matsotsi” three part series, “Mwana Itsvimbo” and “Pfimbi Muninga” to mention a few.

The officiating ceremony of the “Agostinho Neto Exhibition” was extraordinary with red carpet entrance and extra décor in the exhibiting space. By the time of the officiating speeches the space was already buzzing and filled to capacity.

The frenzy was paused with the introduction of the Zimbabwean National Anthem, then followed that of the Republic of Angola. Short introductory speech and presentation to the podium of the exhibiting artists by the executive director of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Doreen Sibanda opened up the lengthy period of educating and appreciation speeches from the Angolan Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Pedro Hendrick Vaal Neto, representative from the Fundaçao Dr Antonio Agostinho Neto, (PD) Rev Paul Damasane, music and poetry by two artistes from Angola, the chief curator of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and the curator of the show Raphael Chikukwa who also received gifts from Angola which included books of the English translations of the poetry works of the late Agostinho Neto.

Doreen Sibanda said the National Gallery of Zimbabwe was pleased to host the exhibition in commemoration of the life of a “Healer, soldier, family man, poet and founding father of Angola”.

And the show celebrates the life and achievements of Agostinho Neto in light of questions of identity and Africa’s place in the world. For the success of the exhibition she paid tribute to the support of the Angolan Embassy, the Fundaçao Dr Antonio Agostinho Neto, the National Gallery staff and the two artists.

The Angolan Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Pedro Hendrick Vaal Neto expressed that Angola was pleased and honoured to support the celebration of Agostinho Neto’s life and contribution to the history of Angola and Africa and gave a special thanks to all involved to the realisation of the exhibition.

He said Angola has long recognised the fundamental contribution that culture and art can make to development, social cohesion, and peace; and taking this into account, they are aware of the significant contribution that cultural and creative industries make towards the promotion on sustainable growth.

Dr Antonio Agostinho Neto was indeed a healer, a soldier, a family man, a poet and founding father of Angola who immensely contributed to the eradication of colonialism and apartheid in Africa. Whilst a medical student in Portugal, he was imprisoned severally along with other young progressive Portuguese who fought against fascism.

After completion of his studies he returned home to Angola to mobilise others for strategic pursuance of the struggle. He never had ample time to practice his medicine as he was imprisoned for his liberation struggle activities. After escaping from Portugal in 1962, he was elected honorary President of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola.

He led the national liberation struggle until the Carnation Revolution in Portugal, of April 25, 1974. He led the fight that defeated the South African and Zairean invaders, proclaiming independence on November 11, 1975. From 1975 till his demise of 1979, he presided the popular Republic of Angola and initiated the national reconstruction of the nation, committing himself to the liberation of Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.

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