Pixels of Ubuntu/ UnhuExhibition opening Review by Tafadzwa Gwetai (assistant curator )Pixels of Ubuntu/ Unhu was official opened by the Zimbabwean ambassador to Italy Mr Magwenzi. The commissioner to the Zimbabwe Pavilion Doreen Sibanda spoke during the opening and placed emphasis on the importance of Ubuntu/ unhu in relation to the contemporary times that we live in. Chikonzero Chazunguza also gave a brief talk on how elements of the past are linked to the now and how the artist is evolving especially in times when Ubuntu/ unhu is constantly being questioned. People were drawn to the exhibition with a natural curiosity about Africa and Zimbabwe in Particular. The exhibition was opened on the 7th of May, 2015 on a beautiful sunny Venice afternoon at one o’clock. A large number of the visitors were people who have visited the last two Zimbabwe Venice exhibitions in 2011 and 2013. It is safe to say that Zimbabwe has a strong following. The Exhibition consisted of three artists Masimba Hwati, Chikonzero Chazunguza and Gareth Nyandoro. The overall view from the visitors to the pavilion was how well all the three artists work fused. Though Individual in nature and execution, the works found a common ground on issues of interrogating consumerism in relation to the human condition and existence. Most visitors were intrigued by Masimba Hwati’s ‘Urban Totems’ series that dealt with the concept of social media and how they alter people’s perceptions in relation to their identity. ‘Urban totems’ reviews technology from an African perspective and the international. Gareth Nyandoro had amazing commentary and response from the visitors who were fascinated with his approach to the consumer through engaging the element of the street vendor and aspects of city culture and dynamics. His pieces such as the installation titled ‘mushikashika wevanhu’, ‘5 rand pakadoma’ and ‘first street performer’. The pieces are massive in scale and very delicate when looked upon. The intricate detail he uses and we have coined to be ‘kucheka cheka technique’. His emphasis being on the human situation and how commerce impacts on human nature at an individualistic existentialist level.Chikonzero chazunguza has a powerful body of work that are both prints and a video installation. Chazunguza has a series titled ‘Presence of the past’ that engages the historical element of the African movement in relation to the colonial encounter and how the past is a critical to the current and the present day. He juxtaposes images of those that initiated the Zimbabwean quest to independance such as Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi and relates them to the Zimbabwean context in the contemporary Zimbabwe. ‘Gutsameso’ is a video installation that consists of a diversity of supermarket products that are packed in shelves and are repeatedly flashed in a advertising manner. Visitors to the Zimbabwe pavilion related to this Installation with close reference to how commodities are integral to our existence and how industry imposes products on people. The element of abundance and the illusion of a good life.
Our identity and its place in the global sphere has always been a source of inspiration for the Zimbabwean Pavilion at Venice and this year’s theme Pixels of Ubuntu/Unhu – Exploring the social and cultural identities of the 21st century continues the interrogatory nature of the Zimbabwe Pavilion at la Biennale di Venezia.
Pixels of Ubuntu/ Unhu was official opened by the Zimbabwean ambassador to Italy Mr Magwenzi. The commissioner to the Zimbabwe Pavilion Doreen Sibanda spoke during the opening and placed emphasis on the importance of Ubuntu/ unhu in relation to the contemporary times that we live in. Chikonzero Chazunguza also gave a brief talk on how elements of the past are linked to the now and how the artist is evolving especially in times when Ubuntu/ unhu is constantly being questioned.
Raphael Chikukwa Chief Curator
Raphael Chikukwa was born in Zimbabwe and worked mainly as an independent curator for many years before joining the National Gallery of Zimbabwe mid 2010 as its Chief Curator. He is the founding Zimbabwe Pavilion curator in 2010 – 2011 and curated the 1st and 2nd Zimbabwe Pavilion in 2011 and 2013 at the 54th and 55th Venice Biennale respectively. Chikukwa recently curated Basket Case II a travelling exhibition, with Christine Eyene. He has taken part in a number of Forums that include, ICI Curatorial Intensive in Addis Ababa 2014, Future Generation Art Prize Committee 2014 and Johannesburg Art Fair 2013 (SA). Chikukwa is also the founding coordinator of the 1st Zimbabwe curatorial workshop and forum and has also contributed to number of journals and catalogues that include, African Identities Journal, Savvy, and Art South Africa etc. He is a 2006 – 2007 Chevening Scholar and holds an MA Curating Contemporary Design from Kingston University London.
Tafadzwa Gwetai (assistant Curator) is a Zimbabwean visual artist, painter, sculptor and emerging curator who uses mediums such as oil paint, mixed medium and found objects. Gwetai has been actively involved in the arts since 2001. He has participated in various local as well as international exhibitions including, Between the Sheets Artists Books (Gallery East, Australia), and the exhibition, Colour Africa (Munich). He has also had four solo exhibitions to date, with the most recent being, “Con artist- The purpose of illusion” (2014) “Aesthetic Codes: When Science meets Art” (2012). He reintroduces and redefines mathematics with science and logic to create a new language. A language that challenges the very core of industry and its relevance to mankind. He views our existence as having been transformed into a virtual reality based paper work and documentation.
Tafadzwa Gwetai explores the human condition and how mankind has redefined themselves and their basic existence. Existentialist philosophy such as that of Rene Descartes and Plato who challenged the existence of man and founded the concept of ‘I think therefore I am’. This influenced his line of thought to that of challenging the purpose and meaning of mankind’s existence.
Doreen sibanda- Commissioner
Raphael Chikukwa -Chief Curator
Tafadzwa Gwetai - Assistant Curator
Paul Bradley Venice Conultant
Gareth Nyandoro- Artist
Chikonzero Chazunguza - Artist
Masimba Hwati - Artist
Silus Matopa - coordinating team
Fadzai Muchemwa - coordinating team
Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture
The National Gallery of Zimbabwe
Swiss Agency for Development and Coorperation .SDC