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One Hour In Zimbabwe: Explore Harare’s Art Scene, Beyond Gallery Walls

 

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Tawanda Chipiri, an artist who sells his work in Shandai Pamwe Avondale Arts and Crafts Center, a suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe, works on a sculpture made of serpentine stone. Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe

Artists in Zimbabwe find various ways to express their culture and traditions through their work. To experience the art scene of the country’s capital city, Harare, tour the National Gallery as well as the street-side art centers.

HARARE, ZIMBABWE — A deep semblance of Zimbabwean culture, tradition, social beliefs and way of life is expressed explicitly through art. With every artwork, creativity is a key element to ensure that the artwork’s message is plainly conveyed, but with some art pieces, only the artist can decipher the meaning.

Zimbabwe has a vibrant art sector that targets both tourists and local people. For art enthusiasts visiting Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, the National Gallery is one way to take in the talents of the nation’s artists. But, the artists who sell their works street-side are not to be overlooked.

Granite stone, ceramic, metal, beads, fizzy drink cans and wood are some of the materials used to make artwork found in Harare art centers.

A chain from an old bicycle and an axle, useless pieces of metal, are creatively put together to make a work of art that imitates a bird.

“Every art piece has a meaning attached to it,” says Elvis Demba, an artist who sells his work at Shandai Pamwe Avondale Arts and Crafts Center where a group of artists sell their pieces outside at Avondale shops, 4.2 kilometers (2.6 miles) from Harare’s city center.

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Kusasa wove these baskets from sisal, a material derived from Agave plants. The fibers of the plants are extremely strong, and are often used for making baskets, rope and more. The baskets are on display at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Most of Demba’s work is inspired by the natural surroundings in Zimbabwe, including natural resources, economic conditions, the institution of marriage and the importance of family, Demba says.

The National Gallery of Zimbabwe, the center of recognition of Zimbabwean artists in the world, has been in existence for almost 60 years.

The gallery is devoted both to the presentation of contemporary art and to the preservation of Zimbabwe’s visual heritage. It’s also home to a collection of paintings, masks, images and sculptures, both ancient and modern, from across the continent.

The arts and crafts industry not only provides income opportunities for groups which have access to resources, but also offers employment opportunities for many economically disadvantaged people. Yet, there is an increase in the number of visual artists in Zimbabwe who sell their work outside art galleries as a way of creating employment for themselves.

Tawanda Chipiri, an artist, creates sculptures that depict the culture of the Shona people. He says he was inspired by his father to be an artist.

Chipiri is registered with the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe but does not have any of his work in art galleries, he says.

“Sometimes if you put your art pieces in galleries they don’t give you your money in time,” he says, “So selling by myself is quicker.”

For small-profile artists, getting artwork sold in art galleries is a struggle.

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Artist Alfred Magwaza created two busts from springstone, a black, heavy stone which is a variety of serpentine. This work is displayed at the Shandai Pamwe Avondale Arts and Crafts Center.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Demba does not exhibit his work in galleries because his dream is to sell his artwork outside Zimbabwe, where he can earn more profit, he says.

“I send some of my artwork to South Africa; in the art galleries here I do not have any work exhibited because big artists are the ones that have most of their work sold,” he says.

Zvikomborero Mandangwa, the information and public relations officer at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, says that some of the country’s most celebrated artists are a part of the gallery’s permanent collection.

“As we move to the future we identify work from contemporary artists in Zimbabwe and abroad and we find means to collect their work and house it in our collection,” he says, adding that the process of selecting artwork for exhibition is fair.

“We have a committee acquisition which identify work for the selection and decide what is collected,” he says. “We come up with a curatory schedule two years ahead of time and from the schedule we develop calls that are sent to the public domain and artists respond to those calls.”

Over 600 Zimbabweans responded to the 2016 annual exhibition and the number is constant each year, Mandangwa says. He cites that artists can submit their work for individual consideration, without registering with the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe.

Fadzai Veronica Muchemwa, the assistant curator at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, says most of the works they exhibit have specific meaning.

“Some of the work we have is autobiographical, some is to do with myths and folklore,” she says.

They exhibit various kinds of art such as stone sculptures, mixed media, world art and metal sculptures, video work and ceramics, Muchemwa says. She says they work with anyone who submits their work for the gallery’s consideration.

“We usually have open call exhibition and curated shows; from the open calls that is where we get to know what artists are doing and we come up with concepts for curated shows,” she says.

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Stewart Mutongwizo used recycled soda cans to create this work of art, which is on display at the Shandai Pamwe Avondale Arts and Crafts Center.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Elvis Demba, an artist who sells his work in the Shandai Pamwe Avondale Arts and Crafts Center, Harare, created these sculptures from serpentine. While serpentine varies in color, the hardness of the stone is perfect for sculpting.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Sekai Holland used verdite, a metamorphic rock with a green color, to sculpt this bust, which is on display at the National Gallery.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

K. Kupahala used recycled cans to create this piece, which is on display at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Artist Tawanda Chipiri uses wood, recycled soda cans and wire in these Shandai Pamwe Avondale Arts and Crafts Center pieces.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Sam Zinzombe created this metal sculpture, which is on display at the Shandai Pamwe Avondale Arts and Crafts Center.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Insects made of beads, wire and plastic, by artist Tawanda Chipiri are on display at the Shandai Pamwe Avondale Arts and Crafts Center.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

A metal sculpture in the Shandai Pamwe Avondale Arts and Crafts Center, by artist Stewart Mutongwizo.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

B. Nyakunu’s black serpentine sculpture is on display at the National Gallery.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Metal, stone, recycled cans — there’s no limit to the materials used by the artists who sell their work in Shandai Pamwe Avondale Arts and Crafts Center.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Collin Nyarumba made this sculpture out of soapstone, also known as steatite. The stone is made of talc, a clay mineral that has been used for centuries throughout the world for sculpting. Nyarumba’s artwork is on display at the National Gallery.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Artist Sam Zinzombe’s metal sculpture is displayed at the Shandai Pamwe Avondale Arts and Crafts Center.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Amali Malola, an artist whose work appears in the National Gallery, used springstone for a number of his sculptures.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Malola’s works are well known in Zimbabwe, as well as the international arts community.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

As one of the oldest sculptors in the country, Malola was an active artist until his death in 2015.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Experience the Artwork
The National Gallery of Zimbabwe: To enter the gallery the cost is 50 cents for children and $1 for adults, for both local and foreign visitors. The gallery is located at 20 Julius Nyerere St. in Harare, Zimbabwe. Artworks are available for sale. Visit National Gallery’s website on www.nationalgallery.co.zw.

The Shandai Pamwe Avondale Arts and Crafts Center is found at Avondale shops, 4.2 kilometers (2.6 miles) from Harare’s city center. Artworks are available for viewing for free. The pieces are available for sale; prices vary.

 

Linda Mujuru, GPJ reporter, translated some interviews from Shona.