Top gallery celebrates fifth anniversary

Stephen Garan’anga Visual Art
It’s amazing how quick time elapses ,especially if one is into something tangible and after a little while you embark on your checks and balances to realise how much you have achieved. It has been five years already this December since First Floor Gallery Harare was founded by Valerie Kabov and her young local team of artists in a humble room downtown but with a lofty belief in importance of supporting artistic excellence and philosophy that “Art is for Everyone” and ‘If you want to go far lets go together!”.

They have been supporting emerging art and that is a treacherous terrain to conquer.

But through soldiering on they have succeeded remarkably especially when taking Zimbabwean young art to the outside world.

Recently they had a gathering at their gallery for cake, food, wine and paint to celebrate their efforts in the art world.

The period of their existence has seen them conducting thirty eight art exhibitions, 26 six workshops, master-classes and numerous local and international festivals, art fairs and dozens of collaborations engaging about a century of artists as well as accumulating thousands of audience members all over the world earning them a spot as one of culture trip’s top ten contemporary art galleries in Africa.

First Floor Gallery now located on the second floor of Mercury House at 24 George Silundika Avenue in Harare’s city centre on their artistic endeavours has been to various countries showcasing Zimbabwean art in galleries and participating in art fairs in such big art cities which include Paris, France, Berlin, Germany, London, England; Johannesburg, South Africa to mention a few.

Some of their memorable efforts include the organising a three-man mixed media exhibition of dizzy heights by some of the dynamic multi-talented young contemporary artists.

An exhibition which was officially opened on the March 31 2011 at their former location in the same George Silundika Avenue that feature artworks by National Arts Merit Award winner Z Magasa.

The show had the bringing together of established media in daring ways, the striving for effect, the evolution of entirely new mediums for art.

The close trio had continued to show new stretches of creative imagination as their work had become more as a matter of invention and the processing of ideas based on artists’ new spiritual bearings than art as an outcome of social observation.

The continued use of glass, plastics and metal dominated the body of the constructional work that had been regulated in size by the limited exhibiting space.

In the show Moffat Takadiwa relished on melting glass, reshaping glass bottles and strangling them, making unorthodox mixtures to give them a new lease of life.

Panels of dead wood, strips of discarded rubber, degenerated pieces of clothes and all sorts made him feel at the King’s table. Banda felt more relaxed at acrylic painted imagery in semi abstraction on canvas whilst Zacharaha Magasa was unforgiving when it came to welded iron and steel scrap metal sculptures.

Weldart is Magasa’s premier medium which has seen him scooping important national awards though in that exhibition seemed to be equally comfortable too in the use of plastics and metal sheets in his hanging constructions.

The future has continued to look bright as they have continued to open new avenues of creativity.

First Floor Gallery also had their very first international export exhibition titled “Harare Paris! Young, contemporary and Zimbabwean” that took place in May 2011 was at the time their pinnacle of the young and progressive career artists under the First Floor Gallery umbrella as it turned a new page for the emerging voices to be recognised by international audiences. The highly creative Zacharaha Magasa, Moffat Takadiwa, Wycliffe Mundopa, Brian Banda and Terrence Musekiwa are the young provocative minds that showed at Pavé d’Orsay in the heart of the French capital.

Paris is world renowned for its numerous high profile international art museums and galleries that secure hundreds of thousands of artworks by countless global old masters and important contemporary artists.

The Zimbabwean exhibition was the result of dreams and aspirations of First Floor Gallery as a fast emerging critical art space.

The intention to have the art show abroad had been in the pipeline for some time as the young artists working together with the support of the then Paris based art critic and educator Valerie Kabov, who had also been the First Floor Gallery’s senior advisor and mentor since its inception.

The dream was to bring to European audiences a truly contemporary and dynamic vision of Zimbabwe and to broaden the audiences and support for emerging Zimbabwean art internationally.

The exhibition had a warm reception and support with a launch which was graced by a special performance from the guest of honour and renowned Zimbabwean singer Busi Ncube, who had travelled from Oslo in Norway to support the opening on May 12, 2011. Marcus Gora, the co-director as well as the co-founder of First Floor Gallery, speaking at the special viewing of the exhibition on May 19 2011 said: “Not only has this been an amazing opportunity to bring to the attention of a truly international audience contemporary art, it has also been an opportunity to change peoples’ hearts and minds about Zimbabwe.

People who become interested in our artists also want to know about their lives and look beyond the headlines.

This has really made us feel how powerful art can be at changing perceptions and fighting prejudice.

Of course the best thing has been to know that people from all around the world can recognise the merit and find joy in the works of young talented Zimbabweans who speak about their lives and lives of their people with honesty and integrity.

This proves that as artists we don’t need to try to pretend to be like anyone else or conform to other people’s agendas.

When we are truly ourselves that is when we find a global audience and support!”

©Stephen Garan’anga 2014

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