MAPPING - ZIMBABWEN MODERN ART DEVELOPMENT


1980s - 2000

The period between the '80s and 2000s was marked by a new political dispensation of National Independence that superimposed itself on a movement of modern

art practice that had begun 20 years earlier.  By the time of independence , the art sector was still basking in the wide international acclaim for the art sector that included painting and the modern stone sculpture movement.  The hand of racial separation was evident in that white artists essentially occupied the painting sector while the black artists essentially were stone sculptors, though not exclusively so.

The onset of independence was to engineer significant shifts in this regard.  The post-independence National Gallery of Zimbabwe director, Christopher Till gained support for setting up a formal training institution persuading BAT to fund the project.  The BAT Studio was launched during 1981 as an entity to offer formal art training to young and would-be artists.  

The emphasis was on make-shift curriculum that though only initially was a 3-month rolling intake, escalated to 1 year, 3 years and finally settled on a two year course with formal higher education accreditation in the last few years.

This provided a welcome fillip to the sector and an area that had seemingly been the preserve of white artists saw the entry of many young and dynamic black players in the form of :-

The period between 1980 and 2000 also witnessed the noticeable rise (even higher advancements and accolades) to the more mature artists that had already established themselves as talented and dedicated artists.  These included the early stone sculptors - Joseph Takawira, Nicholas Mukomberanwa, Thomas Mukarobgwa, Henry Munyaradzi, Bernard Matemera, Joram Mariga amongst others..

Most of these were established and recognised before independence but after 1980, increased documentation emerged, alongside many invitations to travel overseas, participate in international workshops and residences and even formal study, as was the case with Tapfuma Gutsa.

The euphoria of the eighties was peopled with many players including new publications, video documentation and private galleries.  As the workshop school had disintergrated older artists that reminisced about its value were heard by Roy Guthrie and one outcome of the sculpture symposium held in 1984 was the establishment of a new sculpture workshop in the form of Chapungu sculpture village in Harare.

In the meantime several of early trainees from the BAT workshop won international scholarships to  formerly pursue art overseas - these included Chikonzero Chazunguza,  Munya Madzima, Florence Mahonde - went to Bulgaria and Chaz Maviyane Davies to the UK among others.

The 1990s witnessed a flurry of new commercial  galleries that could see the possibility of widening the demand for local arts as a critical mass of local talent was coming to the fore.   Galleries  included Piere Gallery, Chapungu Gallery, Mutupo - The Totem Gallery, The Matombo Gallery, The Springstone Gallery, amongst others.   

MAPPING - ZIMBABWEN MODERN ART DEVELOPMENT

As the National Gallery of Zimbabwe celebrates its 60th year in existence, a wonderful opportunity exists to interrogate and examine the trajectory travelled so far in this delightful adventure.   Another stimulus for this is the formal incorporation of art and culture on the new 2017 school curriculum.  This combination provides a perfect backdrop to present this show.  A group effort,  the show strives to present the journey from antiquity to the present day, meandering all the ups and downs while navigating all the twists, turns and influences that have been part of the journey.

The existence of our extensive collection allows us to do this and we believe it will add value and enrichment to the local community, especially the education fraternity while providing the conference goers an interesting insight into what has contributed to the growth of creative arts in Zimbabwe.

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