We are pleased to be presenting the final project in the form of an exhibition by Visiting Artist in Residence Andreas Wutz, who took up studio 11 in the National Gallery in Bulawayo mid January 2017. In the past two months, Andreas has managed to give a talk about his work and has exchanged ideas with younger artists in residence through a weekly workshop and screening of creative video artworks and meeting with relevant stake holders in the creative sector in Bulawayo. The exhibition
Namuhla yisikhathi esadlulayo Today is a long time ago
6 April –8 May 2017
Namuhla yisikhathi esadlulayo is titled an exhibition by Andreas Wutz which is based on a long-term research in national and private archives in Zimbabwe, field researches on original locations, and involving both professionals and private persons. Interrelating chiefly history with histories of secondary order such as natural history and the history of private of objects, the exhibition seeks to reconsider Zimbabwean history by a parallel, less instrumentalized reading. The artist’s methodology and documentary approach resembles those of archaeology and uses film, photography and sound recording additionally to drawing as instruments of research and presentation media. The title wants to express what binds the contemporary irreversibly to the past and our present feelings, dreams and thoughts to our memories. Also, the original title uses the IsiNdebele language, both in grateful reminiscence of the writer and former gallery Regional Director Dr. Yvonne Vera, whose work had been so inspiring to the artist, and in reference to the culture and mainly spoken language in Matabeleland region, which is home to the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo.
The project Namuhla yisikhathi esadlulayo comprises three topics in reference to Zimbabwe: natural landscape, private objects and identity/belonging.
Landscape plays a pivotal role in the history and perception of Zimbabwe. Landscape painting first came to Zimbabwe by artists like Thomas Baines in the late 19th century and later in the sixties it was established as a Zimbabwean art form by the founder of the first National Gallery of Rhodesia now Zimbabwe, Frank McEwen, a European artist and art historian. European landscape painting was based on idea from romanticism, a glorification of the past and of nature. However in reality, this idealised nature several times became a battlefield in Zimbabwean history. The Matabele wars, the First Chimurenga, the Second Chimurenga, all the struggles which made Zimbabwe the nation of today, an independent country, was the result of a history of violence, whose traumatic consequences continue to have an effect and influence the current social situation. Therefore, the European image of nature as a refuge and idyll is contrasted by its contamination of violence. The image of nature lost its innocence and darkened, nature and landscape had become a traumatic experience.
Visiting former places of violence in Zimbabwe don’t show any traces, what happened once in the past remains invisible today. Memory, however, according to the philosopher Walter Benjamin, is based on images, but not on words. Therefore, if ‘landscape’ is not identical with nature – like a map and the territory that it represents – but a pictorial interpretation, a subjective image of it, what do we perceive then when we are looking at it today knowing what once happened on the place? How does memory affect the idea of landscape and nature?
The photo project Invisible Landscape investigates such a former place of violence in the Chimanimani Mountains. Invisible today and not identified or marked by any sign or traces, here in 1964 started the Second Chimurenga when a white driver in his car was deadly attacked by group of freedom fighters who called themselves the Crocodile Gang. There were no witnesses, apart from the involved individuals themselves, no witnesses but nature, the forest, the grass, the plants next to the road – as they still are there today. For other reasons, some of these plants from the place in the past still can be seen and studied; they are archived in the Herbarium of the National Botanical Gardens in Harare (which is reflected by film project Hortus Harare). These plant specimens from the natural environment next to historic location therefore may help to reconstruct an image of the place by offering a different kind of reading. We can learn not only about botanical classifications, including detailed descriptions of the sites with exact geographical indications, but we also learn which botanists were at the locality in those times of violence. That way botany interrelates with History and offers a different kind of narration that may be less instrumentalised, but open again for studying and understanding.
My Object Tells
Objects also are containers of history. Clay pots from the past may tell archaeologists a lot about the skills and life circumstances of a preceding culture. Objects have a history of their own production, also in industrial times. Objects may contain individual histories, memories that remain attached to them, even if they have become useless, damaged or broken. In My Object Tells specific objects from the 60s, 70s, 80s – a critical period of time, which still has its effects on the current situation in Zimbabwe – were photographed together with their current owners, who tell the story of their object: How and when they got it and what made them keeping it until now. My Object Tells may be read alongside with chiefly history, of which its own history of production and its attached personal memories also have been part of.
The Embedded Self
The investigation of the ‘Self’ cannot be separated from its surroundings, from what then contains the ‘Self’, from what it is embedded in. In contrast to Invisible Landscape, Hortus Harare and My Objects Tells, this project is not so much based on the past, but on the contemporary by addressing the Zimbabwean generation that was born or has grown up in post-colonial times. How do they perceive and define themselves and what defines or influences them? Is history something important for the identity and the belonging of a young Zimbabwean generation?
Based on a selfie workshop with young persons The Embedded Self seeks to extend these kinds of self-portraits by factual or alternatively chosen historic contexts, which localise the participants fictitiously in a historic situation and help clarifying his/her role in the present. The basis of this participatory investigation has not been so much historic archives, but works of art initially selected by Andreas Wutz for discussing purposes and later by the participants themselves. These art works may have been a painting, a photo, a film, a text or a piece of music of his/her choice. Works of art have been used as mediators to history as art is able to contain history in a highly condensed form. Through art it seems possible to look at history in a different way, which does not only tell the story of kings, but also allows the individual to try to define one’s own position in a present situation that sometimes may appear too complex or too confusing. Each participant was invited to develop a project of its own referring to the subject as above described and could be realised in any technique or by any media.
The exhibition in its current form was realised during an artist-residency at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. The realisation of the research would not have been possible without the support of the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, ifa Stuttgart and the City of Munich. The artist also would like to thank Moira FitzPatrick, Phephile Tshabangu and Michel Zondo (Natural History Museum Bulawayo), Livingstone Mucheva (National Archives Zimbabwe), Christopher Chapano and Antony Mapaura (National Botanic Garden Zimbabwe), Ben Mutape (Main Library University of Zimbabwe) and Susanne Renner (Botanical garden and Ludwig-M.-University Munich), as well as all the botanists Tom Muller (Harare) and Darrel Plowes (Mutare) and various other individuals in Bulawayo, Harare, Mutare and Chimanimani who have been involved in the project. The artist gives his special thanks to Clifford Zulu (curator of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo), George Masarira (painter) and Neville Starling (photographer) for their kind and continuous support and engagement during the artist’s residency in Bulawayo.
Andreas Wutz is an independent artist from Munich and Bilbao, who graduated in painting and has subsequently focused on photography, installation and audio-visual art. Recently he has worked on a photographic project in Albacete, Spain, and has been teaching visual art at Instituto Europeo de Diseño in Barcelona and at the University of California in San Diego.
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