Stephen Garan'anga Arts Correspondent
The undivided focus to nurture Zimbabwe's fine art by the fast emerging First Floor Gallery continues with crucial hands-on
activities, bringing motivation and rare smiles to many young and upcoming artists.
The FFG's amazing energies to manoeuvre across miles of treacherous terrain in inhospitable state of the atmosphere to yield tangible results will not be depleted if support comes on board sooner.
Since its inception, First Floor Gallery has recognised art as a cultural and that some of the most vibrant art spaces in the world have been built upon the will of the struggling artists to enforce a break-through in the art world.
FFG's has held well subscribed monthly art exhibitions interminably attracting new audiences and their successful first ever international art export show in Paris, France, titled "Harare Paris! Young, contemporary and Zimbabwean" that took place in May, undisputedly testify for the significant inroads being made towards bridging gaps bedevilling the local artists' welfare and growth in the sector.
Chimanimani Festival 2011 edition was very much an event marked by the attitude "Where there is a will there is a way" from the creative community in Zimbabwe. The festival traditionally known as "The people's festival" is a favourite with artists, who get an opportunity to reach out and connect with their grassroots and share their work with and get feedback from the broadest possible audiences.
The festival encountered various challenges but sailed through by the soldiering on of some progressive minds.
For the first time in the history of the "Festival" there was an introduction of a fine art exhibition through collaboration with First Floor Gallery, Harare. The art show themed "Reaching Out!" showcased artworks by some of Zimbabwe's emerging artists who included Moffat Takadiwa, Wycliff Mundopa, Zacharaha Magasa, Sky Salanje, Kuda Maponga and Brian Banda.
Marcus Gora, FFG's administrative director said the purpose of the exhibition was to expose contemporary art to audiences who are not well exposed to other artistic trends beyond their communities.
"It is only by connecting with other artists and the grassroots of our people and our culture that we can make authentic and important art. Zimbabwe is not just the cities, our culture comes from the deep, from the rural areas - this is the heart of the country and without sharing with it and engaging with all people of Zimbabwe, we cannot progress," said Gora.
Hector Mugani, the acting festival director, applauded the FFG's ability to successfully organise an art show.
"These young artists are making work that is very contemporary and innovative, but at the same time they talk about the life and issues of their fellow Zimbabweans today and that is why so many people responded so well to the works. As a festival, this was our first visual art exhibition and it was a great success. We respect what they did and how they are working with grassroots visual arts," he said.
First Floor Gallery Harare is no stranger to innovative programming and developing projects in places not traditionally associated with visual art exhibitions. Over the past year and a half, the gallery has developed a programme of regular local and international exhibitions.
Because of the deep need for ongoing mentorship and education, First Floor Gallery Harare has also established a programme of workshops and master-classes to support young artists, inviting local and visiting experts to lead the education.
These have included in developing new skills like the "Career skills for visual artists" workshop led by co-founder of the gallery and academic based at University of Paris, Sorbonne, Valerie Kabov, curating and art theory workshop delivered by Unesco's, Anne-Britt Stromnes, and portrait drawing workshop by Australian artist Richard Butler-Bowdon.
FFG has also developed workshops to deal with key issues like the "Women and Art" master-class held in March which attracted over 50 participants.
Presentations were from Berry Bickle, Zimbabwe's first woman representative at the Venice Biennale 2011 as well as local women role models Virginia Chihota and Portia Zvavahera.If all fine art practitioners, art
institution, the corporate sector and other stakeholders merge our efforts to support art, we will be able to establish a dynamic, diversified and sustainable culture sector imbued with Zimbabwean values and identity, contributing towards wealth creation.
- Stephen Garan'anga is an international fine art practitioner, independent art projects co-ordinator, chairperson of AfricanColours Artists, executive member Batapata International Artists' Workshop, critical visual arts writer amongst other things. firstname.lastname@example.org