Three Zimbabwean artists, Gareth Nyandoro, Masimba Hwati, and Chikonzero (Chiko) Chazunguza have joined other artists from around the world at the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale. These three artists are representing the country at the Zimbabwe Pavilion and they are running with the title, "Pixels of Ubuntu/Unhu – Exploring the Social and Cultural Identities of the 21st Century."
This is Zimbabwe's third time to exhibit at the Venice Biennale in Italy and the last two times were in 2011 and 2013. This event takes place once in two years hence it is called a "biennale."
The Zimbabwe Pavilion was commissioned by the Director of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ), Mrs. Doreen Sibanda, and was curated by the curator of NGZ, Mr. Raphael Chikukwa and Mr. Tafadzwa Gwetai.
Chikonzero (Chiko) Chazunguza was born on 13 January, 1967 and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe. He is a visual artist and provocateur, whose multidisciplinary artworks raise searching questions about the postcolonial condition and about the unstable role and nature of art in its post-colonial context.
Amongst his most compelling works are those that reinstate for the viewer, a sense of ritual order and of life's deeper mysteries, alongside proffering incisive, yet subtle social and political analysis. Chiko deliberately sets out to re-connect with local modes of fabrication and their visual effects, exploring their areas of aesthetic overlap with Western traditions to produce new visual forms and new kinds of visual experiences.
Masimba Hwati was born in 1982, and grew up in Harare. He is interested in the memory and energy of traditional objects and the space they occupy in the urban world. His work explores the transformation and evolution of indigenous knowledge systems. Masimba says, "I'm looking at how these systems co-exist with current paradigms. The idea of 'harmonic incongruence' and juxtaposition of esoteric cultural elements with modern mainstream symbolism is an underpinning factor in this thought process.
"The Institution of Ubuntu is a universal moral and ethical code that transcends geography and cultures; it is quantum thinking expressed in human relations. It is the essential link of man to Divinity. In my work this idea is explored through my personal and cultural lens and is connected to a larger universal context."
The dialogue contained in his work questions the "thinking" behind today's modern thought and explores the altruistic possibilities that exist in non-material cultures. His Urban totems series questions whether technology's pixilating of our Ubuntu/Unhu has enhanced or distorted our humanity.
Gareth Nyandoro was born in Bikita, Masvingo in 1982. Gareth trained at Masvingo Polytechnic, Harare Polytechnic and Chinhoyi University of Technology. He combines images of vendors with found materials, which he processes by employing idiosyncratic variations on traditional craft techniques. He weaves with paper. Nyandoro produces prints not by using an engraved copper plate, but by cutting directly into the paper, sponging ink onto it and finally removing the top layer of paper with tape so the ink is only left behind in the cuts. A technique he calls "Kuchekacheka" (cutting up). He attempts to simulate the market environment by combining two-dimensional collages with three-dimensional objects.
The fragile, ephemeral quality of his work references the temporary nature of the marketplace. Gareth's installations bring the two – dimensional and three - dimensional components together through drawing, props, and objects to create works reflecting his research in relation to space, narrative, or storytelling, and materials as they are altered and transferred. In Venice, he will work with these diverse aspects of his practice to create two distinct rooms, with common themes unifying and resonating in the entire space with the other artists, relating to the present condition of Zimbabwean identity.
His Mushika Shika Yevanhu installations examine in minute detail whether the new age transitional marketplace and associated identities of the touts, vendors, and audience have a lasting impact on our humanity, history and culture; whether they define who we are as a people.
The Biennale is running from 9 May to 22 November 2015 under the theme, "All the World's Futures." 136 artists and 89 countries are exhibiting at the event.
To follow the Biennale, log on to the official website labiennale.org.
(Information courtesy of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and Fadzai Muchemwa)