The National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo is inviting registered companies to apply to lease the gallery restaurant as from 1 January 2021.
The restaurant is a very important and strategic component of the overall Gallery visitor experience. The lessee is expected to provide fresh meals and teas, maintain high professional standards and have a passion for absolute customer satisfaction. The restaurant is expected to exude an ambient atmosphere and exhibit high inclination for creativity in its operations.
Interested applicants should submit their sealed applications addressed to the Regional Director of the National Gallery in Bulawayo, 75A Joshua Nkomo Street and Leopold Takawira Avenue by 30 November 2020.
Applications must include company proof of registration, health certificate and an outline of experience in the food industry. A liquor license should also be included if applicant intends to serve alcoholic beverages.
A non-refundable application fee of ZWL$1000 must be paid into the National Gallery of Zimbabwe bank account indicated below.
Proof of payment must be attached to the application. Failure to provide proof of payment renders the application incomplete and will therefore be disqualified.
The winning applicant will be notified by 20 December 2020.
The National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo is now accepting proposals for self-funded local and international exhibitions, Curatorial projects and Residency applications.
Local and visiting Artists and Curators wishing to present new ideas and projects in the context of the Bulawayo gallery space and emerging independent curators committed to developing their professional practice can now submit proposals for exhibitions and visiting –Artists in Residency for 2021.
1. Artists must submit proposals for the presentation of their own (solo or collaborative) work.
2. For collaborations, artists must confirm interest/availability before they submit the proposal.
3. Artists that have not exhibited their work at the NGB over the last three years are particularly encouraged to apply.
GUIDELINES: While we accept submissions based on all sorts of ideas, in 2021 we remain committed to exhibiting:
1) The work of emerging contemporary artists, particularly those in the SADC region.
2) Work that contributes to the ongoing dialogue about contemporary art practices.
3) Projects that push artistic practice in new and interesting forms and directions, including digital artists as well as artists that showcase traditional art works using digital means to apply.
4) Topics and styles not well represented by private or commercial spaces or otherwise difficult to show elsewhere.
5) The work of artists previously exhibited anywhere outside Zimbabwe or itinerant exhibitions.
6) Projects that take into account our limited gallery space, thoughtful and orderly installations that respect the “breathing space” of each artwork tend to work better in our gallery.
7) Artists also keen to experiment with public art installations are also strongly encouraged to apply.
PLEASE TAKE NOTE: The above are just guidelines, so don’t worry if your exhibition/ project doesn’t satisfy everything listed; however, they are rules.
How to Submit/ Format Requirements: Before sending the application, please make sure to have the following prepared:
1) Application letter 2) Up to 10 images of your work. The images should ideally represent the actual work selected for the exhibition. If this is impossible, the images should represent works that are comparable to those that will be featured in the exhibition. These images should be JPGS, no larger than 1024 x 768, 72dpi, preferably under 1MB. They MUST be named in this format:
05YourFirstName_LastName.jpg … etc
3) Up to 3 videos (*optional) of specific works which will be included in the exhibition. Please make sure each file is under 300MB and less than 5 minutes in length. If the original video is longer than that, please send an excerpt. Videos should be in MOV, MP4, or AVI format.
Do not include exhibition documentation unless the element of time is integral to the work (i.e. performance or video installations).
4) A one-page statement describing the concept of the exhibition. The file should be a PDF, RTF, or Word document.
5) An image list providing an inventory of the images submitted. Include number, artist name, title, year, medium, and dimensions. Again, make it PDF, RTF, or Word document.
6) Your resume and the resumes of any prospective collaborators. The Gallery offers residency for 1 and 3 months with the possibility of an exhibition at the end of the residency.
THE NATIONAL GALLERY WILL:
Offer artists an amazing opportunity to experience the vibrant visual arts scene of Bulawayo. This package offers preferential space for professional artists who are able to finance their self-directed studio residency at the National Gallery up to three months. The price for this residency is USD 100.00 paid in local ZWL equivalent per month. This includes studio space facilitation of your stay whilst in the city and exhibition space in the small galleries. The curator/ artist is expected to cover all other expenses including mobility, visas, health insurance, local travel, meals, and subsistence, as well as their own accommodation.
THE NATIONAL GALLERY WILL NOT: • Pay for your return ticket/flights to and from Bulawayo Zimbabwe. • Pay for your travel insurance, airport taxes, and visa costs, to enter Zimbabwe see https://www.evisa.gov.zw/Home for details. (Will assist with all the necessary paperwork and clearance) Pay for your accommodation
THE NATIONAL GALLERY MAY: • Assist in fundraising for the mobility stipend and accommodation • Assist in sourcing basic art materials and equipment. • Assist in sourcing funds to make your residency as productive and comfortable as possible
Artists and Curators are encouraged to seek support to cover mobility local transport, accommodation, living and material expenses. Proposals that are incomplete, unreadable, or fail to meet the above requirements may not be considered.
Application Deadline 30 November 2020. Successful applicants will know by 15 January 2021
Available slots are 1 April to 30 June and 4 July to 30 September and 4 October to 10 December 2021
Listen to this creative climate conversation between Zimbabwe and Scotland. Hosted by Fadzai Mwakutuya in conversation with Butholezwe Kgosi Nyathi the Regional Director of National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo to listen please follow this link https://t.co/DMy0GxtNDp?amp=1
climate Change Creative is an online artivist resource created to facilitate the sharing of original designs within the public domain; such as banners and placards which raise climate change awareness. The project is funded by Enough! and Creative Scotland.
The National Gallery of Zimbabwe has set itself as a center for national culture, which may inject various influences into the mainstreams of life and change the way people appreciate art and culture in their various societies through stone, metal and wooden sculptures, paintings, drawings, print works and installations. The Gallery is responsible for circulating exhibitions throughout Zimbabwe and is a focal and distributing point for art in the country. Its core business is also to preserve, conserve, research and publish the artworks collections for the education of present and future generations of Zimbabwe. The Gallery provides education through the National Gallery Visual Arts Studios (NGVAS) and also holds educational workshops, films and lectures within the Gallery as a way of promoting and educating the public about visual arts. The Gallery offers the corporate community and other civic organizations the opportunity to hire artworks from the Permanent Collection for decoration of their premises. These institutions can also hire space for private functions, exhibitions and shows. Interested people are welcome to use the Thomas Meikles Library to provide research and interest facilities.
Position summary The position of Curator is a full-time job, as a member of the senior staff and, with the Executive Director and Curatorial team, provides artistic direction and coordination to the National Gallery of Zimbabwe’s programs. It requires enthusiasm and a passion for art in Zimbabwe. The NGZ Curator is responsible for the oversight of designated travelling exhibitions and for the conception, execution, quality, and scholarship of a number of internally generated exhibitions and their accompanying catalogues. NGZ Curator is expected to be an active and visible member of the National, Regional and International art community, and to participate in the overall institutional advancement of the Gallery.
Job description The Curator is responsible for: general scholarship and research into contemporary art; for advancing the institution’s mission; for executing and developing support for its programs; meeting the goals of its strategic plan; heading and working closely with Senior Management.
Exhibitions: The Curator plays a significant role in the formulation of the overall direction of the Gallery’s artistic efforts and long-range exhibition schedule; prepares exhibition proposals 1-2 years in advance of exhibition dates for review and approval by the Director; originates three to four exhibitions of varying content each year with an accompanying scholarly catalogue; works to secure touring venues for exhibitions and oversees their implementation. Co-ordinates with the Curator of Education and Public Programs to plan exhibitions; works with the Conservation and Collections Manager, ensures that the highest level of professional care is given to works of art entrusted to the Gallery; works with the Executive Director and Exhibitions Office to track exhibition budgets and expenditures; fosters and actively participates in dialogue with colleagues, sharing professional opinions, and advancing ideas and knowledge related to contemporary art within and without the Gallery; maintains a visible role in the community including the maintenance of relationships with artists, galleries, collectors, donors, and members of the general public.
Public Information and Electronic Media: The Curator contributes to Gallery publications and communication efforts as requested; provides information regarding exhibitions and programs for website and social media content; collaborates with Communications and Marketing Department to prepare exhibition-related materials for public relations and marketing efforts; contributes to the development of communications and marketing strategies and materials to serve audiences and to enhance the Gallery’s image, identity, public and community outreach and donor prospects.
Development, Donor Relations, and Institutional Advancement: Under the supervision of the Executive Director, the Curator takes an active role in the identification of possible funding sources, and in grant preparation and reporting.
External Relations: Represents the Gallery to the public at large; attends exhibition previews and related events around Zimbabwe and internationally if possible and carries out any other duties as assigned.
Qualifications The Curator of Contemporary Art must have: a Bachelor’s degree in Curatorship, Museum Studies, Fine Arts, or Art History; a Master’s degree in the above studies will be an added advantage; 5 years minimum prior experience in the curatorial and contemporary arts sector; Experience working in a government setting will be an added advantage; good knowledge of Zimbabwe and African contemporary art; good oral and written communication skills; self- motivation; initiative and ability to work as a team; excellent problem solving, analytical, IT and numerical abilities; A highly target driven self-starter and have proven leadership capacity and experience.
To apply To apply for this position please send your CV and cover letter to email@example.com or The Executive Director, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, 20 Julius Nyerere Way, P O Box CY848, Causeway, Harare. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.
Dreams and Realities exhibition seeks to invite artists, to contribute their thoughts through painting, sculpture and mixed media. The National Gallery of Zimbabwe seeks to commemorate Zimbabwe’s attainment of 40 years of independence through an exhibition by local and Zimbabwean artist. Having attained black majority rule on the 18th of April 1980, Zimbabwe in 2020 celebrates 40 years of self-determination.
Featuring work by: Ishmael Singo, Dumisani Ndlovu, George Masarira, Miranda Mathe, Omega Masuku, Stanley Sibanda, Nonhlanhla Mathe and Nkosikhona Nkomo.
The NGZ will unveil the realities and dreams of Zimbabwean people in a visual perspective of Zimbabwe’s 40th anniversary. The exhibition aims to be seen as a contemporary guide for creative memory to everyone that played a role in liberating Zimbabwe. The exhibitions includes other liberation war elements and brings out evolving meanings of soverenity.
Artists are exploring personal journeys, motivations, trials and tribulations of individuals who set off from their rural villages and townships to join the struggle. Zimbabwe’s 40th anniversary comes at a time when the status quo has begun to understand the role that art can play in the society and in the re-engagement agenda. This groundbreaking exhibition brings a interrogative generation of artists together as Zimbabwe marks this milestone.
The arts have contributed immensely to the visibility of Zimbabwe internationally and as a country there is need to realize the soft power that the art brings to the image of the country. Art brings people together and it’s time to harness its impact and role and celebrate its achievements. Zimbabwe @ 40 provides us with a great opportunity to revisit our struggle for independence and the post-colonial traumas as we look into the future that will define us as a young nation. It is also an opportunity for the born frees/ millennials to add to this narrative from their own perspective.
Dexterous graphic designer, Mbakisi Sibanda, is steadily making remarkable strides in the digital art sector following his debut as the only Bulawayo artist part of the POWERPLAY exhibition, a collaborative project by the arebyte Gallery-London, National Gallery of Zimbabwe and the British Council, currently running in London.
In a recent sit-down, Sibanda revealed how he strives to always live up to his name which can be loosely translated to, “the one that helps to build” from the Kalanga language.
“I strongly believe I have to leave a mark wherever I go, it is not necessarily about myself, but purpose. Whatever I am doing has to have a purpose and this is what I am aspiring for,” Sibanda said.
“Among all the other things that I do, I am also working closely with an NGO that is helping feed and take care of the vulnerable during these hard times. Purpose is a very big part of my life,” he continued.
With daily experiences in the advertising and graphic designing worlds, Sibanda is avid about digital art and its properties that are reinforcing the relevance of art today. He firmly believes technology has broken down barriers around art as we know it.
“I have never been really good at drawing, but the computer has helped me a great deal. I now create art and it has become my way of escaping the real word. It’s my way of taking a different route from design and exploring my abilities,” Sibanda said.
The 25-year old had no prior experience with exhibitions with formal and public institutions. His involvement in the POWERPLAY exhibition came as a result of a nudge by Butholezwe Nyathi, the National Gallery in Bulawayo (NGB) Regional Director, who informed him about the project.
“Since I am not really an artist, I thought long and hard about the essence of an exhibition and replied showing interest that was inspired by adventure. I was then linked to Rebecca Edwards, the Curator at the arebyte Gallery who sent me a brief with the rest of the details. I then followed the necessary procedures and started working on my piece and they were satisfied with the results,” he revealed.
His artwork, dubbed Isolation, is a still portrayal of feeling isolated whilst hyper-connected online and the dark nature of how the internet is a huge contributor to mental and physical health ills among other social strains such as disintegration.
The eloquent creative broke down his work revealing he did some introspection on how the internet has affected him as an individual and although he has never been a victim, he quickly thought of the hackings and stalking he has seen being experienced by those around him. These were the points he ran with in coming up with his artwork.
“We often shut the outside world just to be confined to our phones on social media where we think we will find all the happiness we need but instead, we are gradually destroying ourselves by seeking validation from strangers and projecting some euphoria and this was my starting point. I immersed myself in this scenario and my feelings came through in the artwork,” Sibanda said.
Despite producing a solid polysemic work of art, the perfectionist in him felt he could have taken his piece a notch higher.
Beyond creating, Sibanda finds pleasure in the little things life has to offer. He listens to a lot of music and enjoys a good time at the movies. He also appreciates some time to himself, a space that helps him think clearly and come up with even better ideas.
His recommendations for aspiring digital artists are to work hard and to learn as many different things as possible.
“Use tools you are most comfortable with in terms of software. Know your strengths and weaknesses, that way you find your feet quickly, digital art, like fine art I guess is all about finding your style.”
“Travel a lot, that opens up your mind and helps you appreciate different perspectives. Don’t make the world as big as it seems, know yourself and be yourself,” he advised.
Going forward, the driven virtuoso looks forward to exploring different avenues with his art. He has a series around human nature that he will be showcasing on Instagram or Behance soon. He also looks forward to showcasing more of his works with the Gallery.
As digital art is fast picking up pace globally, the NGB is not far off behind as it is actively involved in promoting the practice.
“Digital art has always been on our agenda, the Covid-19 pandemic has just accelerated the momentum. Besides promoting new artforms through digital art, we are working towards bringing in new artists that have never exhibited in formal institutions,” the Director shared.
PowerPlay is set to open at the National Gallery in Bulawayo before the end of the year. Exact dates to be confirmed.
The Board of Trustees of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Raphael Chikukwa as the Executive Director with effect from 9th of September 2020. He has served the National Gallery of Zimbabwe as its Chief Curator and Deputy Director for ten years. Raphael Chikukwa has played a key role in the development of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, joining as Chief Curator of Contemporary Art in 2010. During this time, he has been instrumental in overseeing the installation of over ten exhibitions as well as developing the Gallery’s international reach and re-imagining its collection. In particular, he has been the founding curator of the Zimbabwe Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 and has organized the country’s representation in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019. Chikukwa was also a founding staff member of the PUMA-funded Creative Africa Network from 2008 to 2009. He holds an MA in Curating Contemporary Design from Kingston University in London and was the recipient of the 2006-07 Chevening Scholarship and the American Centre Foundation Curatorial Research Grant in 2008. In 1997 he graduated with a Post Grad Certificate in Arts and Culture Management from the University of Witwatersrand South Africa. Publications he has contributed to include Visions of Zimbabwe (2004); Mawonero/Umbono: Insights on Art in Zimbabwe (2016); and Kabbo Ka Muwala: Migration and Mobility in Contemporary Art (2017).
In his role as Substantive Executive Director, Mr Chikukwa will provide strategic leadership for the gallery, including academic direction and articulating a compelling vision for the Museum’s development. He will lead on the development and realisation of the Museum’s exhibitions program and will also foster the National Gallery of Zimbabwe’s relationship with the international institutional world.
Speaking about the role, Mr Chikukwa said: I am very grateful for being given this opportunity to head one of the great art institutions in Africa and to contribute to its visibility. This appointment is an opportunity to continue the work started by those that came before me. I am looking forward to this new path and working with artists across the continent and with other cultural institutions in Africa and around the globe”.
The Board of Trustees of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe Chairperson Dr Solomon Guramatunhu said: “It is good, could be more effective by acknowledging that Raphael is taking over from Doreen Sibanda, who retired after working tirelessly and diligently to successfully position the gallery under a very harsh economic environment. The Board of Trustees expresses its heartfelt gratitude to Doreen Sibanda, wishing the best in her post retirement plans.” Mr. Chikukwa takes the helm in transition from Acting Executive Directorial capacities, a period that has been mired by the COVID-19 pandemic, transforming the Gallery into a digitally connected hub of activity in the new order.
Whether you are walking down JMN Nkomo Street or Leopold Takawira Avenue, where these two intersect something is bound to catch your eye. The usually abuzz outer side of The Douslin House, home of the National Gallery in Bulawayo (NGB) is atypically empty. The only people around what has come to be the unspoken official meet up point are those dropping off from ZUPCOs at the adjacent bus stop. The usual denizens are probably locked down safely in their homes trying to maintain the new norm of social distancing.
At second glance, there is more to the scenario. The visibly freshly brightened walls, barricading tape enclosing the historical building, ladders and a handful of men at work, all clad in construction protective gear suggest a different story. The refurbishment of this historical monument is in full swing. This is just but a fraction of the enormous work going on inside the closed doors and with an even bigger significance to the Gallery staffers and affiliates.
The Technical Officer at the NGB, David Nyahanana, who is responsible for all maintenance works, praised the move to renovate saying the dilapidated state of the building was an eyesore, one he is thrilled to see being addressed before his nearing retirement.
“Having worked at the Gallery for 20 years, when I first got here, the building was in a better state, ten years down the line things started to deteriorate. The roofs started leaking, the ceilings were damaged and the paint on the walls started wearing out,” Nyahanana shared.
“When the current Director got here, I brought up the issue that the building was in serious need of a facelift and I am happy he has worked tirelessly to achieve this and now I am going to retire a happy man having seen the renovations materialise, a badge of honour in essence and a most welcome one at that, ” he added.
For one of the longest serving members, Stanley Matengwa, a pensioner who was with the NGB for 37 years and recently called back in to assist in the delicate process of framing artworks and painting, this is a development he long wished for when he was still part of the institution. His personal hopes and those he holds for the Gallery have been refreshed.
Matengwa said, “I started working at the Gallery when I was 28, I literally grew up here and the place has taught me a lot of valuable lessons. One of the treasures I walked away with is how I left as a sculptor even though I had no knowledge whatsoever of the art. This place really means a lot to me and to witness its transformation in this lifetime is a dream come true.”
He also revealed that once the renovations are done, the NGB will be well in place competing in the same standards as some international galleries he has seen on his travels.
Renowned visual artist and an affiliate of the NGB, Fisani Nkomo, expressed how the renovations are going to play a pivotal role in uplifting the spirits of not only the resident artists but more so of the art community at large. For him, the renovations go way beyond the physical improvement of the space but its content as well.
“My role was to assist the photographer to capture images of the art collections and so I was removing them from frames, especially those that were under glass, get them photographed and get them back in their frames. I then had a suggestion that while we are at it, let’s clean the artworks so they are also in a better state,” Nkomo said.
“To me, the art collection is a very important part of any Gallery because it is the core, it is what we look at when we talk about the place’s worth. It is then important to keep these pieces of heritage very safe as they bring out the past, the present and the future; they are a journey really, an art movement journey that outlines how and where we are today with contemporary art. I am in high spirits knowing the renovations have made it possible for the permanent collection to be preserved in an improved state,” he added.
On a recent tour of the premises, Regional Director of the Gallery Butholezwe Nyathi revealed the renovations are now at an advanced stage and are expected to be complete by October.
The makeover is courtesy of the Australian and the Switzerland Embassy who donated US$51,000 and US$50,000 respectively.
“The donation from Switzerland was not entirely for the renovations. They specifically supported the refurbishment of the visiting artists’ accommodation facility, the solar system, storage rails for the permanent collection and air conditioners. The rest of the developments were sponsored by Australia,” Nyathi shared.
Other developments include the ongoing floor sanding process at the Anglo-American and completed floors at the Marshal Barron galleries. The lighting system at the property has been upgraded to an LED lighting system for an improved quality and a more gratifying aesthetic appeal. The galleries have been furnished with sensor lights for energy saving purposes, all in line with a green energy system as 60% of the Gallery is now solar powered.
The small galleries have been touched up from ceiling to the floors. New tiles have been put in different parts of the building. New air conditioners have been installed at the John Knight Cinema and the Permanent Collection room while the fan at the Lecture Theatre has been replaced by an air conditioner to complement the new look of the room in a move to increase the value of the place, the Director noted.
There is a new dry wall, fireproof Ethnography Collection storage facility aimed at preserving the invaluable objects while the Permanent Collection room has been upgraded with a further six new holding rails that have expanded the facility’s capacity to hold more artworks. The two newly installed air conditioners in the space will go a long way in the conservation of the artworks as they require to be kept under regulated temperatures. The ceiling that was rotting away due to roof leakages and the roof itself that covers this area have been replaced.
A new stage adorns the sculpture garden/ courtyard. Events such as the high-flying Friday Late are to move from inside the galleries to the courtyard in preserving the quality of the newly refurbished floors. Food stalls during events such as this will now line up at the staff parking bays which have also had the roof replaced and new lights installed. The economic value of this space has been taken to a whole new level.
With digital arts fast taking centre stage in the world over, a Digital Arts Centre facility aimed at availing space for young creatives has been initiated. The space was used for storage prior the renovations. It has since been cleared and repurposed. Works here have included plastering the walls, tiling the floors and installing a ceiling. Once the area is furnished with tables, chairs and the Wi-Fi range extended, it will be all systems go.
The Accommodation facility for visiting artists has also been touched up with a new ceiling, painted walls, new tiles and improved ablution areas. It now makes for decent habitation.
The renovation waste scattered in the courtyard is indicative of the amount of work that is going on at the NGB. Months of labour-intensive work are fast shaping up. The changes to the colossal building are becoming more and more pleasantly visible by day. It is a series of small things that have definitely made a whole lot of difference.
Nyathi revealed the lockdown has been a silver lining in the NGB clouds.
He said, “We have managed to carry out these renovations with no interference from the public and went on to clean artworks and rearrange them, something we wouldn’t have gotten a chance to do under normal circumstances.”
The Director also shared plans to have the bus stop near the Gallery entrance relocated as it takes away from the ambience associated with galleries. He revealed he has since engaged the city fathers on this matter.
Abstract Art + Rashid Jogee = The People’s Champion
On a recent winter afternoon, we (myself and Joanne Peters) gathered around a pot of hot lemon tea to interview Rashid Jogee. Rashid had made the tea himself and picked the fresh lemons from his garden. As soon as he put the tea down, he was busy with another task: making a “rollie”.
Considered one of the godfathers of Contemporary Art in Zimbabwe, Rashid is one of the few practising Abstract artists. In his 30-year career he has taught at the Mzilikazi Arts and Craft Centre and he headed the Art Department at Founders High School in Bulawayo. As an artist Rashid has had over 48 exhibitions in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Italy, United States, Denmark, Germany, England, and Sweden. In the 90s, former President Robert Mugabe honoured him with the Presidential Award for his contributions and his dedication to the development of the Visual Arts in Zimbabwe. However, Rashid doesn’t rest on his laurels, stating, “In any artistic endeavour you always reach a horizon. You pop your head out the water and it looks lekker. Then you dunk your head down again and swim. Then you arrive at a new horizon. And if you are doing well, in time you will pop your head out again and arrive at a new realm of understanding”.
Rashid is a painter, sculptor, poet, guitarist, teacher, and a handyman who describes himself as “the champion of African people” – amongst other things. Over the course of the next 2 hours, it is only when I bring up his achievements that he digs into a dusty box and pulls out his papers – awards, certificates and honours, for us to see. The man rarely talked about what he has done. Instead he gushes about other artists who shaped his career such as, Marshall Baron, Stephen Williams, Voti Thebe, Doreen Sibanda, Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, Paul Goodwin, Derek Sherwood, Derek Huggins, Helen Lieros, and Raphael Chikukwa. There is a comforting honesty in his humility but his work quickly reminds you that he is in a league of his own. Jogee has never been considered restrained, he is an eccentric with the politest of manners.
His lifestyle is a walking advertisement for working with your hands and when he travels, he gets around on a bicycle. The walls of his home are littered with artworks, most of them his, but some from his peers. The first thing you see when he opens the door is a painting called ‘Not Yet Uhuru’. According to Rashid, his home has always been a cultural point since his childhood; “political discussions with his peers would take place under the watchful eye of his parents and sisters”. His sisters are still heavily involved in his art, often providing financial and emotional support. “I’m all for women’s emancipation, equal pay, equal opportunities. Without my very capable sisters I wouldn’t be able to survive”, he adds. Many who know Rashid personally will tell you there is nothing economical about his choice of words. Rashid can talk. We had come to see him to do a quick interview but ended up talking for hours. In fact, we had been talking for almost 35 minutes before I asked my first question: how did you get into Art? To this Rashid replied, “At an early age in primary school, other kids in my class would come to me to draw anything artistic, from diagrams to maps for rubbers, fountain pens, pens, pencils, you know”. Ironically, his journey to Abstract Art started because, as Rashid stated, “First of all, I couldn’t draw very well, although later I found that drawing is very important. You can’t paint if you can’t draw”.
When I asked him how he paints since he “can’t draw so well”, his revelation of his process was just as informal as our surroundings. His main influences in all his artistic works come from Eastern cultures – especially Sufism and the writings of Jal?l ad-D?n Muhammad R?m?, Indian percussionist music, popular music, Poetry, and African music. Somewhere between telling us which artists he listens to the most, Rashid breaks off into a Shona resistance song; which unfortunately I was not familiar with. “I love Shona music, Andy Brown – I taught him at Founders – and I knew Chiwoniso personally”, he said. An avid music fan, Rashid cannot create without the eclectic mix of Bob Dylan, Beyoncé, Cliff Richards, The Beatles, Rihanna, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, and Abdullah Ibrahim. “Musicians”, he adds “are the most respected artists in all African cultures”.
Rashid’s methodology is steeped in the rich history of Art. “To be a good artist you must have a good sense of composition. Where to put things. Tone. Texture. These are the composite elements of abstraction,” he informed us. Despite his aesthetically pleasing compositions, Jogee makes the kind of Art that can only be constituted for a purpose, rather than the pursuit of profit. “Art must be reflective of your environment. Whether it is a positive or negative vibe, you must try as hard as you can to get your message across in your Art. A decorative picture does not mean anything. It has got no truth in it. You can’t travel with it, it has no baggage. You just sit and enjoy it with your eyes. It’s on the surface. Real Art must be relevant to you and your environment”, he asserted.
There is a certain romanticism in Rashid’s outlook on Art and what it is supposed to do to the viewer. His ‘approach to creating Art seems natural, ‘loose’, and ‘heroic’, but it is derived not only from observation and practice, but also active participation in the subject matter; “Getting your hands dirty,” as he called it. No stranger to danger, Rashid was conscripted as a medic in the Rhodesian Défense Force (RDF), and recalls one scene when he had to pick up a human torso rived by a landmine and put it in a bag. This incident was explored in his work called, ‘Landmine’. “In Art there is always the retrospective elements. Sometimes after you have produced something, you can identify its sources”, he said. Rashid’s work is Abstract but it is deeply rooted in current affairs and the political situation in Zimbabwe.As he gave me a tour of his home – which also functions as a free open gallery – I couldn’t help but notice the titles of his works are inspired by major political figures or events in Zimbabwe – in fact he even has a picture of President Emmerson Mnangagwa opposite a painting dedicated to the First Lady called, ‘Auxilia’, on his living room wall.
When I asked him about all his political references, he told me that, “Politics is Art, Art equals Politics. Artists are the documenters of the political events”. Rashid’s work is full of authentic ideas about everyday life, passionate love, politics, family, traditions, and musical undertones. He is a visionary, and I suppose that is why his work seems abstract. He is a man trying to paint the future with meagre tools from the comfort of his home. Rather than blaming his tools or “the situation” he soldiers on, trying to heal all those who gaze upon his work with his bright – muted colours and vivid non-objective scenes.
When I asked him, what motivates him to continue to paint, especially in this uncertain unstable economy, he replied, “For me it’s necessity. Personally, to express myself and my feelings. Painting allows me to be vocal and give people ideas. It allows me to represent how others are feeling”. Rashid also counts local radio presenters as people that “really keep you going, especially in these troubling times when it’s hard to even find bread and paints”. This might sound strange due to the nature of his kind of Art (Abstract) – but Rashid is a storyteller. As abstract as his works might seem, what he does best is bring it all down to Earth. “Water always finds its own river. So, when you get the response or reply from others, saying that person is like me, that’s my great reward”, he said. Painting, according to Rashid, is a way of finding someone who is similar to you – someone you can relate to and share experiences. “Sharing and bartering will always be a necessity for our people. You always paint with others in mind because you learn from each other and strengthen each other’s commitment. And increase your knowledge. When you are being oppressed by anything, you have to fall on learning and educative processes to liberate yourself. Because they can take your home or your car but they cannot take away your knowledge”, Rashid said.
Born in Gokwe, Goroge studied at Mzilikazi Art and Craft Centre in Bulawayo. His career stretches from 2008 to date fusing his studies and trade. While studying at Mzilikazi, he majored in fine art and also did ceramic sculpture, pottery, and wood carving. His passion for fine art grew with practice and was mentored by renowned artist, Zacharia Mukwira who now is based in Cape Town, South Africa. George became a resident at the National Gallery Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in 2013 and realised rapid growth in his work because of the new environment and levels of art practiced at the Gallery. He was inspired to change and develop his technique by networking and being exposed to different styles and critic from fellow resident artists and the gallery curators. To date, George has found comfort in abstract painting and continues to work from the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo which has become his second home.
In a statement George says My artistic transition evolved as I find myself enclosed in a contemporary spectrum that influences and inspires most of my works. I am mainly inspired by contemporary unfoldings around me, encompassing, politics, economic, religion, environment, and anything that involves cosmopolitan philosophy surrounding me. I am a provoking artist as most of my art describes what I feel to be the truth. I can be summarised as a radical cosmopolitan artist. I refrain from art which does not speak to the heart and mind because every piece by George Masarira is a result of a blend of lens captures, emotional raptures, philosophical triggers and a well thought out tapestry of hand movement and paintbrush stroke coordination- it will be a philosophical and monumental robbery to create memories and thoughts which do not change a life. I have done exhibitions locally and internationally