Zimbabwean art on the global arena

For a year in which doom and gloom have been largely predicted, the Visual art scene stands on its self sufficiency and soldiers on to a brighter future.

With 2015 having been a year where the consumption of so-called “African Art” received a bolster through Okwui Enwezour’s helming of the 56th Biennale di Venezia, the global appreciation of art from all over the African continent is overwhelming with the likes of artists such as Jelili Atiku, Wangechi Mutu and Thenjiwe Nkosi making a buzz on the international scene, Zimbabwean artists are inclusive of this creative and cultural crescendo.

Visual Art in Zimbabwe is on a rise, particularly amongst the Millennial generation, that is artists aged between the ages of 21 and 35 years of age. Cue Masimba Hwati, Virginia Chihota, Moffat Takadiwa and Portia Zvavahera, whom in the previous six months, have held highly lauded exhibitions around the world. Aside from these stellar solo exhibitions staged in Europe and the Americas, a number of local galleries have made strides into this rapacious international market with a less avid local market which is somewhat limited when it comes to audience and buyers.

The mass appeal of biennales, residencies and art fairs has given a boost to many, Nancy Mteki is one artist to be noted, as she commences her residence at the Autonomous Cultural Centre in Weimar, Germany, which may culminate in highly interesting artwork from the artist, which has become one of her key trademarks.

More closer to home, in this year heralded ‘bleak’ for the arts, several opportunities to view the highly intriguing visual art scene are accessible locally and internationally; the recently opened “Kabbo Ka Muwala: The Girl’s Basket” exhibition, now running at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, two internationally known artists exhibited. Kudzanai Chiurai and Gerald Machona, both who were exhibiting for the first time in Zimbabwe, showcase works that are conceptually analytical of the argumentations and pretexts of migration.

Chiurai posits the Christian faith migratory, as part of its mission was to diffuse the world over and in its denomination, evolve continuously. Machona’s concept propositions a much more metaphysical use of his running-in theme; the bearer cheque. The sense of alienation in his work draws inspiration from Yao mythology.

The homecoming artists do much more than present great art in this instance as they provide the emerging talent that is being developed in the several institutions around Harare with stimulation and drive to create catechistic artwork that serves the purpose of objectively existing for its own state and beyond, stimulating inward looking thought for the viewer.

This ripple moves from looking within to the outside world, the National Gallery School of Visual Art and Design, with the support of Pro Helvetia, exhibited at the Cape Town Art Fair from February 19 to 21.

The exhibition was a mix of work from the current and former students as well as the instructor recognised artists such as Anthony Bumhira, Admire Kamudzengerere and Franklin Dzingai. The exhibition dubbed “Taibva” was the National Gallery of Zimbabwe’s first outing on the Art Fair circuit in Africa and aims to give the most vivid account of the Contemporary Art scene in the country and the continent.

The three artists exhibited were not only Zimbabwean presence, as chief curator, Raphael Chikukwa was part of a discussion on the re-emergence of ‘African’ art on the global scene. He was joined by the National Gallery of Zimbabwe’s former director, Christopher Till, who now runs the Apartheid Museum and the Javett Center of the Arts. With the infusion of young blood in the entire scheme of the Global Cultural Dialogue, the National Gallery School of Visual Art and Design is well set to help in the propulsion of careers of young artists.

Admire Kamudzengerere and Terrence Musekiwa will exhibit at the first of a two part exhibition entitled “Zig Zag Zim”, at the Catinca Tabacaru Gallery in Manhattan, New York in the United States of America. The exhibition will run from February 26 to April 3 2016 before coming to Zimbabwe, “Zig Zag Boundaries”, which will focus on the resultant relationship with boundaries between tradition and contemporariness, foreign and local, Black and White and so on.

Artists from the Americas and Europe will also be part and parcel of this show, which shall have additions of young Zimbabwean artists who create the complimentary and contrasting themes and subjects of the various indicators that exist within the overall concept.

Elsewhere in New York, Nontsikelelo Mutiti has work showing at the Bronx Art Gallery in an exhibition entitled “Bronx: Africa.” Mutiti’s running motif of hair and black identity once again takes centre stage in her installation that features an intricately patterned canvas of women’s profiles.

The repetition of the heads runs somewhat on a half-drop basis and the hair products and wooden combs shelved at the work’s fore are rich devices that put the question of how identity from an African viewpoint can be harmoniously juxtaposed with modernity.

Mutiti’s successful interrogation of hair and the direct connection to history and consciousness in Black women is peerless. One may consider the innate energies that each object she presents has and their value in society; most will find the dynamic between hair and product broken by the dominant motive that carries complex tapestries, the woman’s head becomes a base for fractal geometric sequences through the outwardly simplistic hairstyle.

“Bronx: Africa” opened on February 3 and will run till March 4 2016

Gareth Nyandoro’s exhibition entitled “Paper Cut” opened at the Tiwani Gallery in London on February 19 till March 19 2016. Nyandoro’s style in paper, stripped to create form and shape has become the a favourite on the international art scene. Featuring at the Venice Biennale in 2016, Nyandoro’s appeal has increased exponentially and has become a must have for any respectable collection.

The richly illustrated canvases are complimented by supposedly nugatory trinkets and wares that are the subjects of the scenes the artist is familiar with; kombi ward, municipal police raids and the humdrum quietude that is the everyday life of many Zimbabweans. Fields of colour are utilised by the torn away strips to evoke a sense of the metaphysical within the physical realm.

Finally, the AVA Gallery Cape Town will showcase the exhibition “Pixels of Ubuntu”, which appeared at the 2015 Venice Biennale from February 13 to March 7 2016. The highly acclaimed showcase that took place between May and November last year sent ripples through the art scene as Gareth Nyandoro, Masimba Hwati and Chikonzero Chazunguza produced evocative works that explored Socio-Cultural identity in the 21st Century.

Nyandoro and Hwati, being Millennial artists, were incisive in their use of popular culture to describe the misdirection of an entire generation. From Nyandoro’s First Street Performer to Hwati’s Urban Totems series, the everyday person is able to empathise or interpret the work due to the subject being derived from the familiar. AVA’s engagement of the show is an endorsement of the global demand for Zimbabwean art and there is need to continuously develop artistic talent throughout the nation in order to generate identity and material heritage, in as much as livelihoods are empowered through that nurturing.

Hwati will also appear at the Cape Town Art Fair under the SMAC (Stellenbosch Modern and Contemporary) Art Gallery marquee. Noteworthy, Tafadzwa Gwetai who served as Pixels of Ubuntu’s Assistant Curator at last year’s Venice Biennale will be present at this year’s edition of That Art Fair, which opened on February 18 in Cape Town.

Gwetai will be exhibiting with Epheas Maposa through the Dubai based Mojo Gallery.

The Pixels of “Ubuntu” exhibition in Cape Town is emblematic of the forward thrust that Zimbabwe is taking on the Global Art Scene. There has been a generational shift from the early manifestations in sculpture and through art education, the contemporary dispensation has found enterprises in all directions.

The export of Zimbabwean culture, through these supposed bleak times happens to be taking place through Visual Art and as the opportunities come, there will be ardent creativity from the millennial crop of artists.

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