Artists in Zimbabwe today face numerous obstacles, the main one being lack of financial support and funding. Artists often can’t access materials for creating their work such as paint, canvas, and clay, and they also must deal with the lack of workshop space. As a result, many Zimbabwean artists work with found objects. In Zimbabwe, “mixed media” essentially means anything the artists can get their hands on.
Numerous artists have created stunning pieces with nothing but their bodies or found objects. Working with limitations can even help spur creative innovation, as is often seen in repressive regimes where artists must come up with ways to get their message across despite censorship.
These 10 top young artists from Zimbabwe are defying the odds, producing art that speaks to common themes in the country such as war, violence, displacement, and identity.
Sources: NehandaRadio.com, MovementRevolutionAfrica.com, Thandowako.blogspot.com, ArtThrob.co.za, ArtLabAfrica.com, TheGuardian.com, VoicesInColour.Wordpress.com, Zimbojam.com, Contemporaryand.com, NewsDay.co.zw, TheMojoGallery.com
Chiurai is one of the best-known contemporary artists in Africa. He uses photography to speak about themes of war, violence, and sacrifice. His photographs are dramatic and theatrical, showing images such as “The Minister of Finance” wearing an laden in gold jewelry and wearing an oversized fur coat. Recognition hasn’t come without a price. Chiurai was exiled from Zimbabwe because of his controversial work.
Chipaumire is a world-renowned dancer and choreographer who uses her work to challenge stereotypes of Africa. She was born in Mutare, the third largest city in Zimbabwe, but moved to New York City after graduating from the University of Zimbabwe School of Law. It is lucky that Chipaumire was able to leave Zimbabwe because her unique method of expression probably would not have found a venue or audience in Zimbabwe. Working abroad, she has found support.
Masimba Hwati has an amazing gift of being able to take an everyday object, such as a shoe, and transform it into something that appears to be from a different world. He says, “My work attempts to strike an equilibrium between the phenomena of dreams and expression and express a reality which resides in the desires and aspirations of the people.” (newsday.co.zw)
Portia Zvavhera is a painter who was born in Juru. Her paintings show ghostly depictions of women with contorted body parts. The use of patterns and textures in the paintings is indicative of her African roots, but there is a very modern feel to these eerie, powerful paintings. Zvavahera has earned several prestigious art awards and represented Zimbabwe in the 2013 Venice Biennale.
Virginia Chihota was born in Chitungwiza but now lives and works in Tripoli. She primarily works in printmaking and drawing, using images such as foreshortened figures, dolls or children to comment on themes of relationships, isolation, and despair.
Owen Maseko is considered one of Zimbabwe’s most prominent artists, having gained considerable attention worldwide for defying Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe by depicting brutal scenes from the 1980s. He has been arrested and persecuted for his work, but it hasn’t stopped him from using art to help Zimbabwe heal.
Mthabisi Phili is a both a poet and visual artist, and words often make their way into his artwork. Though Phili’s primary medium could be considered painting, it is the materials themselves (aluminium, paper, oil) which make a statement, such as through the combination or juxtaposition of materials with space.
Chimutuwah’s paintings, drawings and photographs are a break from the stark, bold, and often-violent images often associated with Zimbabwean art. His depictions of animals, nature, and people have been described as ethereal and lost in time.
Gareth Nyandoro uses found objects to create sculptures and mixed-media works that comment on daily life on the streets of Zimbabwe. He is a great example of the imaginativeness and resourcefulness evident in Zimbabwean art today.
Mishek Masamvu’s work spans many styles, including realism and expressionism. His work distorts images of people, such as having them walk on brooms instead of legs. In doing this, he “questions the continent’s current trajectory by dramatically exposing psychosocial and political realities.” (themojogallery.com)