The Herald (Harare)

9 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Showcase for Basket Art, Designs

The National Gallery of Zimbabwe is the place to be tomorrow, when some of the country's fine artists gather to share ideas and develop their skills in an exhibition titled "Basket Showcase".

The event's thrust is to give art lovers a feel of recent samples and prototypes produced during a series of basket design workshops led by India's National Institute of Design with weavers from Honde Valley and Masvingo.

In July this year, a team of 19 participants from Zimbabwe comprising sisal weavers from Masvingo's Zienzele Foundation and Honde Valley's bamboo weavers led by STEP Trust, travelled to Ahmedabad, India, to work with design, weaving and dyeing experts at the NID's International Centre for Indian Crafts.

This was followed by further workshops in Masvingo and Honde Valley. The aim of these workshops was to empower Zimbabuwe's rural women basket makers.

The process has worked tremendously in upgrading skills and techniques to make the products more desirable for the international market. Brand building and market connections were some of areas of interest the project focused on. It has drawn India's vast craft tradition and its expertise in artisan development to assist Zimbabwean women to extend their ability to access markets.

This year's long programme took place under the aegis of the Africa-India Forum Summit in terms of India's NID, assisted by The New Basket Workshop, will work with basket weavers in five countries in Africa, Zimbabwe being the first.

During the exhibition, art lovers will have an opportunity to view different types of baskets made from material that is locally available. The colourful baskets are meant for different purposes, while others signify a variety of cultures practised in Zimbabwe and in the region. Basket exhibition is one of the many gallery initiatives meant to promote art to a growing art community not only in Harare but also across all cities in Zimbabwe.

To date, the gallery has become a solace for many surviving on art as a profession. Thus, since its inception in 1957, the place has contributed tremendously to the visual art scene within and beyond the continent.

With that in mind, the initiative is to get the gallery a facelift and improving its premises. Meanwhile, the gallery will on December 5, hold a fundraising dinner at a local hotel. On the day, jazz sensation Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana, is expected to deliver a top-drawer act to jazz enthusiasts. Speaking about the dinner, the gallery's executive director Mrs Doreen Sibanda called upon for support from individuals and corporate world.

"We have organised this Christmas fundraising dinner set for Meikles Hotel to raise the necessary funds that could help us restore and refurbish our building.

"As the institution continues to increase in influence, we feel that it is important for us to increase our security measures around our permanent collection to protect it from potential theft and natural disasters among other things," lamented Mrs Sibanda.

She adds: "Due to an inconsistency in the sponsorship and funding the gallery receives; it has been unable to protect the fragile state of the building, which impacts negatively on Zimbabwe's art heritage."

There is going to be an art auction of works by some of Zimbabwe's top artists, a fashion show by Mucha Original African Couture and cuisine from all over the Southern African region.

"In so doing, we strive to promote talent, creativity and visual heritage through local and international platforms," she said.

The gallery is home to the largest visual art permanent collection and recently, it gained international and local prominence by sending artists to the most prestigious global art exhibitions that include Venice Biennale in 2011.

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