Familiar Histories: An Unstoppable Force in Contemporary Art Discourse.

The story of artists tapping into their own history is not a new one and every generation of artists will always bring their own narratives to this subject. This has remained a familiar territory of tapping into the past and also into familiar stories that confronts people be it in urban or rural population. Taping into the future is

one other narrative that artists will always confront in a very prophetic way; it is in this respect that one can say artists can see beyond the past and present. It would be naïve to think that there is a community without artists, since time immemorial artists have always been there and their work is unstoppable. Artists are part of a cultural fabric of every community and given the voice to express themselves remains a fundamental right.  

This exhibition brings together artists who are obsessed with found objects and their work is here to show how they have transformed these found objects into art. Familiar Histories interrogates current debates in the social, cultural, religious, economic and historical spheres. These issues inspire artists in their practice and in their different mediums. This Unstoppable Force in Contemporary Art Discourse brings artists coming from different backgrounds together. The exhibition brings real life experience to the audience of this exposition. Contemporary art plays a very important role in human development for artists are the newsletters of the society. Artists in the show are Antony Bumhira, Masimba Hwati, Mukudzeishe Muzondo, Nox Chimbetete, Tafadzwa Gwetai, Wallen Mapondera, Julius Mushambadope, Terrence Musekiwa, the late Keston Beaton, Victor Nyakauru and Munyaradzi Mazarire.

The works by Wallen Mapondera explore the urban landscape in African Cities that are confronted by water shortages and Harare is not excluded. His choice of material using cardboard box is exceptional and his body of work also questions local authorities around the continent to address this issue. This body of work comes at a time when many other cities in Africa are facing water shortages and these include; Cape Town, Nairobi, Dar Salaam, Harare, Nairobi, Lagos, Kampala to mention but a few.  Mapondera’s sculptural pieces are very powerful for they show us the other side of this artist who is known for his works on canvas. On another level, Munyaradzi Mazarire’s work takes the audience into living rooms of people. His use of found objects and his exploration of perspective are very powerful. In his work Mazarire’s fascination with space and perspective, presenting illusions and subliminal construction is what Mazarire is known for. While the young artist Terence Musekiwa breaks the divide between traditional Zimbabwean stone sculpture and contemporary material. His work is different from his fathers’ who is one of the Zimbabwean Sculptors. Terence’s visual language is very powerful in its own way and it taps into the current urban landscape of our cities.    

Nox Chimbetete’s portraits of different characters in different hairstyles bring to the audience the discussions of the so-called human hair and the identity that we carry. It also brings in another discussion of our natural hair and natural beauty that we as Africans, have always ignored. Chimbetete’s works bring out how human hair has been popularised in the African continent and asks us questions about our identity. Mukudzeishe Muzondo’s work also questions the identity crisis that Africa is faced with today and brings in the faith that the African people have as they confront the challenges that they face. Julius Mushambadope’s paintings question the role of a woman in our society and also explores our own culture that has and continues to be distorted in this so-called global village.
Tafadzwa Gwetai’s work is primarily an interrogation into the existence of mankind in close relation to the contemporary times. He explores identity through a scientific approach where he engages elements from science, mathematics and even biology and transforms those ideas into his own interpretations of life. Anthony Bumhira takes Zimbabweans back to the Dhoyilisi era where most women would go across the Limpopo River to sale madhoiri / crochet materials in search of a better living for their families as cross border traders. His works also show the role that women play in this world as they struggle to raise their children. These stories are familiar to so many Zimbabweans and artists continue to tap into these realities. Victor Nyakauru aka Tupuka’s fascination with animals can be seen in this exhibition as his sculpture of Musoro we Mombe/Cow head graces this show. Musoro we Mombe/ Cow head is symbolic of power in our Zimbabwean culture as seen at any traditional ceremony; it is the head of the family that is given the cow’s head.

Masimba Hwati’s works are from his permanent collection and his choice of material also demonstrates that he is one artist who is obsessed with found objects.  The late Keston Beaton is one of the masters of found objects in the 90’s.

In conclusion allow me to say, “Each work on this exhibition brings in a familiar story of Africa”. Works are then fused with myriad of found and industrial objects that includes cardboard boxes, metal, wood, wire, rubber, leather and canvas. This exhibition pays homage to the Zimbabwean art history. The conceptual vernacular that these artists bring to the audience of this exhibition is a dialogue about the present day Zimbabwe, its joy, its hardships and its culture that continues to change. These artists are not only limited to the Zimbabwean narratives but they also tap into other familiar global narratives for they are constantly confronted by other cultures.

Curated by Raphael Chikukwa

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