Day 13. The END & A BIG thank you!

Airport Bulawayo

On behalf of the  Mondriaan Fund, the Flanders Arts Institute,  the Danish Arts Foundation and Pro Helvetia, we would like to thank all the  institutions and people we visited/met during this orientation trip. You all really made this trip into a unique experience for us all. We surely hope that this trip will lead to future collaborations on both sides.

Many people have given the trip long-term support, and this is the opportunity to warmly thank them for their advice, help and making things possible: Joost Bosland (director Stevenson Gallery Cape Town), Pauline Burmann (African Art & Theory and director of the Thami Mnyele Foundation), Chiko Chazunguza (director Dzimbanhete Arts Interactive) and his team, Raphael Chikukwa (Chief curator National Art Gallery Zimbabwe), Jabulile Chinamasa (Conservation/Education officer at the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo), Tandazani Dhlakamat (curator Zeitz Mocaa), Amy Ellenbogen (Curator Galleries & VIP Joburg Art Fair 2018), Barbara van Hellemond (Ambassador for The Netherlands in Zimbabwe), Georgina Maxim and Misheck Masamvu (directors of the Village Uhnu Crative Open Art Studio), Thato Mogotsi (freelance curator), Silenkosi Moyo (administrator and P.A. to the Regional Directorat the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo ), Gaudencia Muzambi-Hwenjere (Embassy of the Netherlands in Harare),  Azu Nwagbogu (Chief curator Zeitz Mocaa) and the team at Zeitz Mocaa, Rooksana Omar (CEO of the Iziko Museums), Hayden Proud (Iziko Museums), Doreen Sibanda (director National Art Gallery Zimbabwe), Valerie Sithole (Curator National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare), Daniel Smit (Embassy of The Netherlands in Pretoria) and Claude van Wyk (Consulte of The Netherlands in Cape Town) and last but not least our driver in Harare and Bulawayo Mister Eddie.

Up until the last day (picture above: writing for the blog at Joburg Airport before departure) we have all tried to do our best to write for the blog. If you see mistakes please let us know so we can correct things.

Haco de Ridder (Mondriaan Fund)

Day 12: Bulawayo

The National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo

The Gallery’s history dates back to 1970 at a time when local artists felt that they were increasingly isolated from the main institution in Harare. They lobbied and started their own gallery at what was then the Grand Hotel building. The National Gallery in Bulawayo attained its national status in 1994 when it moved to its current premises at Douslin House – a classic example of colonial Edwardian architecture. The Gallery operates under the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation and its permanent collection reflects the diversity of cultures and traditions which have contributed to the development of art in Zimbabwe ranging from traditional artifacts to modern paintings and sculpture.

Apart from pursuing excellence in the visual arts in Matabeleland and maintaining general outreach, the Gallery sees it as their mission to encourage, train and develop artistic skills – especially for emerging artists.

In the beautiful courtyard and sculpture garden one thus finds a great number of studios where local artists can be witnessed at work. The gallery also houses a research library as well as various workshop facilities. In other words, The Gallery is a dynamic – and very intriguing! – meeting point for artists, patrons and the community.

We were welcomed by Silenkosi Moyo – administrator and P.A. to the Regional Director – and Jabulile Chinamasa – Conservation/Education officer – who took us on a tour in the galleries, which hosted various exhibitions by resident artists (Talent Kapadza and Jeu Verbre) as well as a major group show with Zimbabwean artists curated by Raphael Chikukwa (Lost & Found – Resilience, Uncertainty, Expectations, Excitement & Hope) that interrogates the social and economic fabric in the country in light of its most recent political transition. From a certain perspective the show is indeed mourning Zimbabwe’s turbulent history, but it also seems to mark a turning point while reaffirming at the same time the position of the artist as the primary storyteller. “A new glimpse of hope for the healing of the nation and for moving forward” as one reads from Chikukwa’s curator’s statement.

Afterwards we were also joined by Valerie Sithole (from The National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare), and Silenkosi and Jabulile provided generous information about the Gallery’s history and policies. A recurring theme was their emphasis on public programming, education and developing appreciation of the visual arts. Building partnerships is also very much on the agenda – both national and international, public and private as well as with NGOs. One of the serious challenges the Gallery is faced with is securing sufficient funds for conservation, acquisitions and operational costs, but loan fees and increased patronage from the private sector helps solve the problem to a certain extent. Furthermore, there is hope that recent developments in Zimbabwe’s administration will resuscitate the arts sector.

We then gathered with members of the artist community for a meet and greet which gave us an opportunity to learn more about their work. Also, the two artists in our group (Patricia and Farren) gave presentations. We were delighted that so many people showed up and shared their vision, which once again confirmed the tremendous generosity we’ve generally experienced on our trip, and it was only regretful that were not able to stay for long, but other appointments awaited.

Anders Gardboe Jensen

Mzililkazi Art & Craft Centre
Our next stop is the Mzililkazi Art Centr

How to experience the incredible art scene of Bulawayo in just one day? After the lively discussions at the National Gallery of Bulawayo with a full-packed room of local artists, Valerie planned for us a short but intense tour through various organizations, including three studio visits. Our first stop took us to the Arts & Crafts Center located in Mzilikazi, one of the oldest high density suburbs of Bulawayo. Established in 1963, the Mzilikazi Center is one of the oldest vocational arts and crafts institutions in the Southern part of Africa. Jabu tells us about the beginnings of formal art education in Zimbabwe and how it originated in the colonial era and in the context of the missionary schools founded by the Anglican church. Referring to Canon Paterson of the Cyrene Mission, Jabu tells us of the white Anglicans sympathizing with the black community through arts and music, installing a school within a black community in a time when they were not allowed to mix with the privileged whites. The Mzilikazi Arts & Crafts Center was not only built to foster professional art skills, but to empower unemployed school leavers and keep them off the street. Most of Bulawayo’s artists have since received their formal arts training at the Mzilikazi Arts & Crafts Center. Today the center functions under the municipal government of Bulawayo.

As opposed to the Bulawayo Polytechnic College, the center allows enrollment without academic qualification. Five disciplines are taught in a comprehensive 2-years training: fine arts (painting and drawing), commercial arts, ceramics, wood and stone sculpture, pottery and batik. Luckmore Muchenje, a former student and now a teacher for ceramics, guides us through the painting and drawing class, where we encounter a group of young students working with a wide range of techniques and motives. We move on to the pottery and ceramics class where two students demonstrate the crafting of pottery, their hands skillfully modeling the clay that is milled in their own school. After a six-weeks introduction into all disciplines, students can choose the discipline they want to specialize in. Mr. Muchenje tells us that fine arts is the most popular discipline.

Afterwards Mr. Ndiweni, who is in charge of the cleansing and selling of the ceramics products, takes us through the production spaces of the school as well as the school’s pottery shop. Whereas the products used to be marketed internationally, the arts industry has, like every other industry in Zimbabwe, been greatly affected by the country’s economic instabilities, and shifted more towards local markets. Mr. Ndiweni tells us that the pottery production is currently shut down for economic reasons with no funding to keep it running.
When I ask Luckmore Muchenje about the potentiality of adding a photography course to the curriculum, he tells me that even though there is great interest to include new media, the school currently has no funding for an expansion. Photography is still very absent in Zimbabwe’s art scene, in formal training and in actual practice. Most of the artists we encounter in Zimbabwe are painters and sculptors, among them Charles Bhebhe, who has exhibited at the Zimbabwe Pavilion at the Venice Biennale , as well as Tafadzwa Gwetai and Neville Starling, one of the very few artists we have encountered that work with the medium of photography.

So how to even begin to write about all of these tensions we’ve encountered on our trip? After all, we’ve only been able to scratch the surface of how the colonial and apartheid regimes continue to influence todays social (and mental) fabric, with many questions marks also with respect to how (western) capitalism will shape the current transitions taking place in the art world and throughout. The complexity of these issues can hardly be understood after just two weeks – despite the intensity and richness granted by the incredible (and incredibly humbling) privilege of meeting and speaking to so many inspiring and dedicated people in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Harare and Bulawayo. All we know for sure is that many of the personal stories, social realities and repressed voices remain to be told, disseminated, analyzed and heard as counter-narratives to the dominant history of the white colonial settler.

Doris Gassert

Bulawayo in one day: part three or is it four?
Not to be missed if you are trying to do all the important art venues in Bulawayo is the ‘Bulawayo Home Industries’. Located opposite of the Mzilikazi Art & Craft Centre it is a place which facilitates women in making a living. In a country where women emancipation is not as far as one should hope for, the Bulawayo Home Industries is an inspiring place. Manager Miriam Ndlovu shows us the premises.

Women as well as other unemployed people can enter the space and learn traditional skills to make all kind of articles. These articles are for sale on the spot as well in other places in Bulawayo. Annually there is also the Sanganai/Hlanganani Fair, an exposition for tourists where the pieces are on display and for sail. Part of the price is commission fee for the artist who made the piece. And the good news is: the centre is accessible for the women without having to pay for the facilities. The funding for the institute is by the Bulawayo City Council.

Annually 300 women make use of the facilities and adapt skills as weaving with cotton, wool and ilala palm. They make products as baskets, sandals, floor mats, floor rugs etc etc. At the end of the tour the group of course was tempted to make an investment. So I think all of us bought some souvenirs. But please don’t make the mistake to underestimate the dynamics of the place.

Bulawayo Home Industries is not only empowering women and conserves the traditional arts & crafts techniques, it is also a hidden gem for artists who are inspired by those techniques. So if you are an artist who is lingering on for instance weaving techniques … you might go to the Textile Museum in Tilburg (the Netherlands) but one could also consider flying to this place. Make a financial commitment to the place and in turn learn al about local skills and their hidden heritage. For sure manger Miriam Ndlovu would welcome you . Curious? Send her an email :
And off we went to our next stop. Never thought Bulawayo was such an inspiring place to be.

Annet Zondervan

We end the day with a diner

Day 11. Harare & Bulawayo

Dzimbanhete Arts Interactions
On Thursday 13 September we traveled from Harare to Bulawayo. After having moved in the ‘international way’, hopping from city to city, the upcoming six-hour bus drive would allow us to get a sense of distance and scale. This was well prepared for by an intense experience of space and place during our visit to Dzimbanhete Arts Interactions, located 25 kilometers outside of Harare. Dzimbanhete Arts Interactions (Dzimbanhete meaning “light footstep” in Shona, and according to our guide Jonathan Dube a quality you need to become a healer) was established in 2008 and has many facets.

The first is that it builds architectural structures of different African villages: huts from the Zulu, an ethnic group of South Africa, the Shona, an ethnic group of Zimbabwe, and for instance a Himba hut from the nomadic people of Namibia. In the photos you see the interior of a Shona hut with its clayed interior zones, stove and cupboards, each element in the space to be used or occupied by different groups within the community. The aim is to represent “Africa without borders” and to eventually have 54 African villages represented with its 155 structures (!). One could compare this endeavor to an open-air museum, like for instance the Netherlands Open Air Museum in Arnhem, but better is its comparison with the Venice Biennial (thank you Helena) as the first connotes folklore, while the latter is more in line with the undertone of DAI’s activities, aiming to actively introduce indigenous approaches and methods in cultural practice. It’s about preserving but with an emphasis on collecting and offering a spectrum of typologies: founder, artist Chikonzero Chazunguza, refers to DAI as an arts and culture “resource center”.

The huts are also used to accommodate artists in residence, the second facet of DAI. It invites artists from the region, as well as international artists, to study, work and stay at the premises of DAI.

The third facet of DAI is that it offers mentoring projects, inviting young artists from Harare to use the workshops and available materials, and get feedback from DAI’s director and other (visiting) artists and curators. Chiko Chazunguza, founder and director of DAI, explains that he aims for a “mentoring in our own culture, introduce them to a thinking that is found in indigenous culture.” A big house, with a couple of rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, an exhibition space and a veranda, is the central gathering point, situated on a lawn surrounded by trees and rocks, and with several huts, workshops and an open-air kitchen plotted around.

About five kilometers from DAI, the collection of African domestic architectures finds a pendant in a collection of exhibition structures, the fourth facet of DAI. This collection is in progress, with a first pavilion realized. It is situated in a vast open field, designed by artist Rachel Monotov and produced by the CTG collective, an initiative of the Catinca Tabacaru Gallery based in New York. It is a concrete pavilion in the white cube tradition, with a big round window opening to the landscape, unpolished walls, and a wooden door. It is an elegant space (small scale and one room ground plan) with a robust touch (textured sturdy walls) protecting the art works from the impact of the elements (it reminds a little of Insel Hombroich). Chiko explains that the pavilion is financed by the Catinca Tabacaru Gallery, that also curated the exhibition currently on show, outcome of a residency of the artists Xavier Robles de Medina, Andrea Abbatangelo (high chair), Felix Kinderman, Rani Bam, Caucine Gros, Rachel Monosov, Terrence Musekiwa (golf club snakes crawling in the sand around the pavilion) and Justin Orvis Steimer. The idea is that this is the first of more architectural structures to come, built and financed by external partners that can programme it as a branch of their institution and after a four-year lease hand it over to DAI. The pavilion is open during the opening, occasional live events, and upon request.

What made the visit impressive and made me introduce this report referring to the intense experience of space and place, was our introduction to the sacred space of the Nharira Cave located on DAIs premises. After a walk uphill on terrain covered by light green leaves with  cocos scent, Jonathan led us to a space hidden by massive rock formations with 500-year-old paintings made by bushmen of the animals found in the area. During our visit, witnessed by a troop of Baboons, Jonathan, who’s healer name is Samaita, told us about the seven-day (no rest, no going home) rituals taking place in and around the cave, appeasing the spirits through offerings, drumming, clapping and singing. He explained us the principle of ancestors and guardian spirits: the ancestors, totems represented as animals, are in mother (left leg) and father (right leg) lineage and can’t quit you (parents), while the spirits can (friends).

On our way to and from the gallery pavilion, we passed the dwellings of local inhabitants, almost all working for either the adjacent Lion Cheetah Park or Snake World, both owned by Bristol. The whole area is under huge pressure: many Chinese corporations, Jonathan mentioned the number 26, have their eye on the area as it is rich with metals they would want to mine, meaning that the sacred rocks in their magnificent forms and formations would be destroyed. The pressure is huge as the new government is eager to get developers on board, but as Jonathan states: ”we don’t have a seed to grow another mountain.”

Frederique Bergholtz

Catinca Tabucara Gallery CTG Harare/ Zimbabwe

– A cool Art Space in the middle of nowhere, like a white cube gallery, but definitely different, meant to form precedent for collaborations with international high score galleries.

Chiko Chazunguza (the director of Dzimbanhete Art Interactive) followed us to the project Catinca Tabacaru Gallery, located in the countryside surrounded by bushland and small villages 3 km from Dzimbanhete.
The gallery, which is designed by artist Rachel Monosov, is the first step of a larger project.
It is co-founded by the Catinca Tabacaru Gallery in NY, a contemporary art gallery founded by the Romanian-born curator Catinca Tabacaru. The project is more than just a gallery, under the names CTG Collective and CTG (R), it includes a traveling art residency program initiated in collaboration with Dzimbanhete Art Interactive back in 2015. Through an Open Call artists from all over the world can apply. This year they had over 120 applications from artist from 40 different countries. Of these, 8 were selected to participate in the 1-month residency.

The current exhibition consists of works as a result of the residency – a group exhibition with the 8 artists; Xavier Robles de Medina, Andrea Abbatangelo, Felix Kindermann, Ranti Bam, Rachel Monosov, Terrence Musekiwa and Justin Orvis Steimer from respectively France, Israel, Italy, Nigeria, Surinam, USA and Zimbabwe. The exhibition is open for the public every day, but I doubt that there will be that many visitors due to the far distance location. On the other hand, their events attract many visitors from the creative crowd around Harare. I don’t assume that reaching a large number of visitors has been an ambition, but instead to create a unique and prestigious project profiled as anchored in the local art scene. But as Chiko Chazunguza explained, the project is under continuous development. On a longer term the aim is to get more international galleries to follow, so that the area in the future will have several pavilions to create income and be able to buy the land and hopefully a get a more sustainable economy.

Kit Leunbach

Up to Bulawayo – Hotel N1
After many hours of driving, some stops and even a road fire we arrive at our hotel in Bulawayo.