Local art dominates international markets Option Nyahunzvi

Kundai Marunya Arts Correspondent

When Moffat Takadiwa’s art piece “Tengwe Farms” was bought by American rap mogul Jay-Z, social media was wild with celebration and congratulatory messages, as Zimbabweans appreciated their own for making a huge mark on the international market.

Again recently, Takadiwa who has grown over the years to become one of the most sought after artist, with works on permanent collection in galleries and private homes across the globe, made another celebrity sell, this time to American comedian Kevin Hurt.

The light keeps shining on Takadiwa, and deservedly so as his art is as timely as it is creative. He uses objects picked from trash generated from our daily consumables and technological waste.

In the age of climate change, where the effects have been apparent, now more than ever, as the world experiences the hottest year in recorded history, his art is a constant reminder of where we are falling short.

Attracting the attention of thought leaders who command global following draws focus on the consequences of the pleasures of technology we enjoy today, when time comes to move on to the new.

Importantly, having celebrities of Jay-Z and Hurt stature buying Zimbabwean contemporary art draws attention to the new wave of artists who have been creating amazing work.

Takadiwa said the growing attention on local art is a result of years of work.

“The visual market has been growing gradually for many years”, he said. “It’s not like a sudden thing happening but we have many years of building as a country with institutions like the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, which was working as an agent of government, supporting the growth of visual art including the Shona stone sculpture which was a world success.”

Takadiwa said visual art is now more visible.

“It is more visible now because there is a wave of contemporary art which has generated so much growth and interest of art coming from the African continent,” he said. “That also is riding on the growth of what has been happening which is political and economic independence as well as freedom of expression.”

Takadiwa is not the only young local artist trading internationally.

There is Option Nyahunzvi, who has exhibited in different countries, sharing mostly art based on totems.

He was recently in Venice for an exchange programme which saw him exhibit in the magical city of visual art.

There are big names in conservation based art including Tonderai Mukuru whose work has earned respect especially among wildlife enthusiasts.

There are the likes of Gareth Nyandoro, Portia Zvavahera, Terrence Musekiwa, Gresham Kupakuwana, Julio Rizhi, Keith Zenda, Raphael James, Kreshia Mukwazhi, Wallen Mapondera and Troy Makaza among many others who have been dominating international markets in the past decade taking the mantle from veterans such as Tapfuma Gutsa and Chikonzero Chazunguza.

The rise has been positively impacted with galleries including First Floor Gallery Harare, the now defunct Gallery Delta, Chapungu Gallery, Avac Art Gallery, National Gallery of Zimbabwe and its chapters in Mutare and Bulawayo and the recently established Nhaka Gallery.

Art spaces have been  churning out big names, some of who have now chosen international spaces as representatives.

Takadiwa said there are many players on the contemporary art seen besides those that are well known.

Zenda who recently exhibited in South Korea to become the first African contemporary artist to conquer that market said he has exported over 50 art pieces this year alone.

“I have exported more than 50 paintings,” he said. “There is a higher demand for my art here in Zimbabwe though the prices are lower in comparison to international markets.”

Zenda said to have real value for art locally, there is need for art education.

“We need to educate our communities about the importance and value of art as an investment not just as home decoration,” he said.

Jamu echoed Zenda’s sentiments on local art being valued more in foreign land.

“Most people who buy art in Zimbabwe want it cheap, maybe because we do not have much in terms of disposable income, so people always negotiate for lower prices,” said Jamu.

“The few that see value appreciate it, for example I recently did a painting of businesswoman Zodwa Mandela and South African based Felix Manjonjo offered to pay R20 000 for it.”

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