Our capital city Harare is made up of buildings. They surround us. We live, work and dream in them, and when we leave them we move on man-made surfaces - concrete and paving, tar and rails. This is the cityscape, which is made tangible and animated in various artistic interpretations by the twelve artists exhibiting at the First Floor Gallery in Harare recently.
Paintings, photographs, prints and an assemblage depicting the varying urban realities that affect us, as citizens, and transforming the urban landscape into imagery makes the work accessible, visual and conversational.
The works give us an insight into the role that art and culture can play in weaving the social fabric of our daily lives and rehabilitating the urban chaos found in our urban environment.
The exhibition invites reflection from Harare's residence on the citizens' daily experience of the city with its environmental, psychological and socio-economic nuances.
The highlight of the exhibition is an assemblage of our most common daily transportation -- the infamous commuter omnibus!
Weaving its way precariously elbowing one off the curb of the street where one more often than not one bumps into a vegetable vendor or array of hawkers -- selling from belts and sunglasses to rat poison, and aphrodisiacs and other body enhancing and body defacing potions, lotions and elixirs. Statements such as these from mid-career and neophyte artists capture the factual pulse of the city, today in 2012.
The exhibition eye-opening reflection of "a city with an ancient name, a fractured history and a young, growing population filled with hope and ambition," according to the catalogue. Working in collaboration and inspiring each other, are 12 artists namely: Moffat Takadiwa, Mavis Tauzeni, Nancy Mteki, Kres Mukwazhi, Wycliffe Mundopa, Joe Chinomona, Gresham Nyaude, Spiwe Sibanda, Zanele Mutema, Franklin Dzingai, Andrew Muziri, Kura Maponga and Antony Chidyamatiyo.
Created a version of their city today, with eyes wide open to its colour, challenges, joys and ironies; their work speaks of their hopes, aspirations and pains to build a powerful symphony of Zimbabwean urban life. These artists are neither naively optimistic nor sinisterly pessimistic. Their vision tells of the here and now, with statements reaching out to challenge the now accepted status quo of chaos, failing infrastructure, and faltering morals, of vices and victories, but mainly of the will to work for a better and brighter tomorrow.
As artists, this fledgling group of social realists presents the audience with a mirror to their own urban society.
Perhaps if our city fathers were more enlightened such art exhibitions should be viewed, discussed, and analysed in order for them to fully grasp the magnitude of their urban mismanagement that behests our once beautiful city.The show proffers a very direct way of intervening in the public realm and making new art accessible to a wider audience. It is a show worthy of your contemplation.
Dr Tony Monda holds a PhD. in Art Theory and Philosophy and a DBA (Doctorate of Business Administration) in Post-Colonial Heritage Studies. He is a writer, art critic, practicing artist and Corporate Image Consultant.