Stephen Garan’anga Visual Art
Harare’s population is bursting. There is everyone everywhere from morning to dusk and hard-core dwellers of dusk till dawn. They all are on a survival mission, the will to live make them scatter, tireless and sleepless to earn something to take them to the next daylight or night. It is today’s miserable way
of life dictated by the economic injustices of mankind that result in one putting life in another’s hand.
Like bales of recycled clothes worn by the unknown in another life elsewhere beyond faraway waters, then donated to the pitiful natural disaster prone and unruly manmade decision victims before being smuggled into our beloved country in the favoured abnormal load trucks to descend and scatter every where for resale and in majority in Harare is how Christianity faith has taken over the city and the country at large. This is the expression that emerges from one wall and a window at First Floor Gallery in Harare in its current show that opened its doors to the public recently.
Like the smuggled bales bursting of cheap clothes, two impressions hung about a meter and a half apart high on a clean white wall of the main gallery as if they are emerging, bursting with cardboard made impressions of the bible halted by thin white strips of cloth criss-crossed haphazardly like a net on one in white.
The other has the bibles more exposed and about to fall from a wider opening of an aged light brown grain sack stressed with weight. Adjacent to the left on a partially blocked burglar-barred window, another bale of chromate black plastic glued and pinned to a white board bursts with cartons of huge bibles glued together to sum up the “Faith Overload” piece by Takunda Regis Billiat.
He said wherever you go in Harare especially in the city centre and high density suburbs there are crowds everywhere in hyper activity mostly selling food staffs by the roadside and more clothes from the bursting bales. It’s now stressful to navigate your way through with no space to spit. Amongst the commotion is the common sight of the preachers of the bible in ties and suits, groups of apostles in white garments in the middle of pavements and street corners in burst of gospel choral, numerous apostle congregations next to each other in open spaces and many more.
Billiat says there are more churches in the city centre buildings than there are office spaces.
The economic desperation of the majority has put their faith in the so-called men of god’s hands and praying. The poor are parting ways with their hard earned little for the men of god and churches, making them rich at the expense of their poverty.
One wonders if ever there will be economic relief for the poor in this Christian way of faith, whether the so-called men of god are hard-core conmen in disguise, or whether churches have become unregistered business entities. This is truly “Faith Overload”.
On the other walls same main gallery are amazing colourful huge mixed acrylics and oils on card in representational abstract by Miriro Mwandiyambira, the only lady of the four artist show. She magnificently explored the young females of the city’s obsession with fashion by representations of giant high heeled female shoes and the resultant sad outcomes in “Till Death” four part series.
She said so many pressures down presses youthful ladies in a bid to make a noticeable mark in their lives and this they are stuck with until their demise especially the way they want to be seen in public. Her power of imagination, paint application and use of colour oozes with confidence and great potential.
Only inspiration and support will rise her to greatness.
The floor of the same gallery is furnished with the bringing of the outside inside on a smaller scale in “Welcome to The Jungle, This is Where I live” by Julio Rizhi.
He is a Mbare resident who for two years attended the National Gallery of Zimbabwe’ School of Visual art and Design in the high density suburb. Who else could know better the current environment and its daily life than its visual artistic occupant? He melted various discarded plastics of homes and industry in and around the suburb to mold island-like structures full of buildings of both homes and surrounding industrial areas in bird’s eye view placed on light brown-yellowish sand.
Julio says he is baffled by the environmental state of his area of residence full of junk scattered all over with both relevant authorities and residents paying little attention to it. He has taken it upon himself to recycle some in pieces of creativity.
Troy Makaza expressed himself with the use of silicon mixed with acrylics, creating flexible criss-crossing structures like paint squeezed from a tube in a series of “The Road to Hell”.
He explored the challenges many are experiencing in search of how to make it to the next day. The theme of the exhibition “Kuyaruka – Age of Accountability” was well handled by the rightful age which graduated from the National Gallery of Zimbabwe School of Visual art and Design in Harare barely three months ago. What is also amazing about the show is that the work is as good as any that one can just step into the gallery and enjoy it like work done by vastly experienced practitioners.
Everything seems to have taken off on a positive note for the young and upcoming artists who were recently involved in other young artists’ group show at other galleries.
With inspiration and soldiering on, the three young men and a lady can rise to the fullest in the art world.