Narrative Vessels - An exhibition of artefacts from the Permanent collection

This exhibition traces a narrative that begins with the domestic containers and progressively moves away from the private intimate object to an art that spills into the public domain. Vessels that have a past, a present and an infinitely variable future, these pieces provide both realities and fictions.

  This relationship between the functional and the non-functional, the disposable and the precious, is one theme that emerges in the works featured in this exhibition.  Several pots and baskets and other vessels transform into powerful stories although their original purpose was often only a humble record of family events and traditional gatherings.
The vessels have the ability to communicate across time and in different contexts than those for which they were originally created, sometimes acquiring meanings that their makers may not have intended for them to convey. This shows that they communicate a message that goes beyond the merely decorative while provoking a thought response in the viewer.
What is significant is the extent to which this exhibition is informed by the shape of the vessels, whose history mirrors the anxiety surrounding the status of the object in modern and contemporary art. The familiarity of the traditional vessels enables it to cross from the private domain into the public sphere and back again. The vessels hold secrets within them regarding their real narratives but lie open to reinterpretation.
This exhibition therefore, seeks to revive a Zimbabwean art that merges traditional practice with contemporary styles and techniques to produce unique objects, standing not just as utilitarian objects but as credible art pieces, as well as valuable sources of information about a society.  The skills and innovation demonstrated in making these objects has seen them elevated from the realm of craft to be recognised as art. These objects are not mere art but they are art objects of mediation.
For instance zoomorphic clay pots shown in this exhibition reveal a combination of sculpture and pottery making. The twin mouthed clay pots and wicker worked vessels shown display a high level of creativity decoration and embellishment that was dictated buy their utilitarian purposes.  Vessels in this show are more than simple manifestations of utilitarian objects which can stand on their own in terms of design and artistic merit.
The “Narrative Vessels” invites the viewers to exercise their imaginations and interactive participation, in order to create new meanings from the items in the show.  We are pleased to present this exhibition of vessels from our Permanent Collection.
Curated by Lilian Chaonwa

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