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Gwanza Exhibition - Zimbabwe in pictures
Taurai Maduna,
July 20, 2005

"The Mirror" by Tsvangirai MukwazhiJuly is known as the month of photography in Zimbabwe and Gwanza, which opened on July 15, is an annual exhibition, which lauds the talent and skill of Zimbabwean photographers. The curator of the exhibition is photographer Calvin Dondo, who said the aim of the exhibition, includes re-defining the public's understanding of the role and function of photography.

Gwanza features a selection of photographs by local photojournalists including Mr Dondo, as well as Desmond Kwande. The Zimbabwe Government inspired "Tsunami" also known, as Operation Murambatsvina, could not have been better told by the pictures of Desmond Kwande, a photo-journalist with the Zimbabwean newspaper, The Daily Mirror. Mr Kwande's photographs at the Gwanza exhibition capture the "before" and "after". One photograph shows a big suburban house before it is demolished; the second captures a bulldozer flattening the house.

One of the photographs attracting lots of attention, and much reaction, is an image entitled "The Mirror". It features President Mugabe's face reflected in a side view mirror of a military truck. It was taken while the President officiated a guard of honour at the National Sports Stadium in Harare. Tsvangirai Mukwazhi the creative photographer responsible for this stunning photograph managed to capture a rare moment in time.

Another part of the exhibition, which is worth mentioning, is the suite of photographs taken by twenty-five children in the programme, "Kids with cameras". According to Mr Dondo, the youngsters were each given a camera with the instruction to capture the essence of their respective communities on film. Mr Dondo said several of the children did a better job at telling a story visually than some experienced photographers. The curator says professionals often worry too much about technique, and then miss opportunities.

While images may be powerful medium to tell a story, it does not make earning a living an easy business. Mr Dondo said that most photographers struggle in their work, partly because their creativity and movement is curtailed. The Zimbabwe Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) lists some of the problems faced by local photojournalists in the State of the Media Report 2004.

Curator Calvin Dondo at the National Gallery of ZimbabweMr Dondo described the public's initial response to the exhibition, which opened on 15 July, as encouraging. Yet he acknowledges that more may need to be done to "draw people into the gallery" saying that only a small number of Zimbabweans regularly visit, or support, exhibitions. The curator adds that the practice is not considered a common part of local culture.

One of Dondo’s photographs depicts the plight of HIV/AIDS from a unique vantage point where a man attending a funeral checks his watch because he has to make his way to another funeral. The photographer adds that there are so many people dying that if one wants to attend all the funerals, a certain amount of time has to be allocated to each one.

Another photographer, Masimba Sasa captures the sexual gyrations of the dancing queens for Afro-beat musician Femi Kuti whose dances left Zimbabwean music lovers begging for more. Kuti was in Zimbabwe in April 2005 during the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA).

Other artists' work on exhibition include Tichaona Mukuna, Mercy Moyo and Fidelis Zvomuya.

The Gwanza Exhibition ends on 15 August, 2005.

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