By Emmanuel KaNdlovu
In addition to its vast list of accomplishments, the National Gallery in Bulawayo (NGB) recently successfully hosted a cohort of Midlands artists under the Musasa Arts collective and their Peripheral Chronicles exhibition, at the same time affording several young artists their debut in the visual arts fraternity.
Welcoming invited guests at the opening of the exhibition, NGB interim Regional Director, Silenkosi Moyo, revealed this was all part of the institution’s provincial outreach programme.
“We are witnessing the official opening of a group exhibition by Midlands artists. This is a journey that began in May this year under the gallery’s provincial outreach programme with support from the Swiss Embassy.,” she said.
Moyo also commended the artists’ collective for taking charge and owning their narrative.
She said, “The artists whose work is on display under this exhibition are young artists under the mentorship of Keith Zenda. Together with other veteran artists they have come together to form and register their Musasa Arts association. The Musasa tree grows big and provides a very good shelter to all those who sit under it. It is very important as an arts industry that we organise and create these kinds of linkages.”
For renowned visual artist Keith Zenda, who was at the forefront of this exhibition as the director of Musasa Arts, the highlight of working on this project was seeing his mentees rising above and beyond their backgrounds and putting out remarkable pieces of abstract art.
“It was not easy working with young budding artists as they had not yet amassed the necessary experience and some come from disadvantaged backgrounds while some are still in school. We however worked hard in giving them that much needed confidence boost that it was neither about age nor background but believing anything is possible.”
“I watched these young men and women become flexible and coming out of their comfort zones and it was a very beautiful experience. We are excited with the way our work has been received as this is the affirmation that these young ones needed. There is no looking back after this,” Zenda said.
It was all praises and gratitude to all the stakeholders from the young artists that worked on the Peripheral Chronicles exhibition.
For 23-year old and first time exhibitor, Samuel Sifani, the experience of showcasing for the first time and let alone at national level came second to none.
He said, “This has been a defining experience for me. I am so grateful to Keith and the other artists that I worked with in this exhibition because they are the people that helped me realise my vision and to be whom and where I am today.”
Sifani also extended his gratitude to NGB for affording the collective the opportunity and platform to tell their stories to the world through art.
Another artist, Clara Mahlangwayi, one of the female artists part of the exhibition, was grateful for the exposure this opportunity will afford her.
She said, “ This has been a priceless experience really and personally, this has not been about selling my art but getting the exposure, getting to know more about art as I would like to study art as a subject one day and I am certain this exhibition has opened that door for me.”
Curated by award winning visual artist, Talent Kapadza, who is also a resident artist with the NGB, the Peripheral Exhibition that will run for three months explores new approaches to contemporary art, contextual ideas, interrogates self-representation and redefines comprehensive bodies of work conceptually. It mirrors self-worth, immersing one’s thoughts in deep thinking and researching about global network representations of the historical art movement across Southern Africa and beyond. The artists involved are Clara Mahlangwayi, David Carlsson, Divine Kumirai, Florah Maphosa, Keith Zenda, Kudakwashe Nhutsve, Luckson Munetsi, Milly Nhutsve, Munashe Kwaramba, Nomzamo P. Ndebele, Patrice Nyika Samuel Sifani and Zindonga Maisiri.
The Exhibition was officially opened by the Deputy Director in the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works in the Midlands province, Isaac Mutambara, who was standing in for the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Midlands, Honourable Larry Mavhima, who was set to be the guest of honour. Also in attendance was the National Arts Council (NAC) Provincial Arts Manager for Midlands province.
Corporates also jumped in and sponsored the event. On behalf of the NGB, Moyo took time to thank the sponsors.
“We would like to acknowledge the strong corporate support of Ingwebu Breweries, Pebble Rock Lodge for accommodating the artists, Alliance Francaise de Bulawayo and Shesham Investments. It is such support and collaboration that the arts industry needs to create a functional visual arts value chain,” she said.
Evidently, the success of the exhibition left an indelible impression on the visiting artists. Zenda on behalf of Musasa Arts shared the group’s aspirations going forward.
“We are looking forward to having an art space in Gweru where we will be displaying our art. More so, we are looking forward to the cultural exchanges between the two provinces through the Gallery in Bulawayo now that we have cemented this relationship.”