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Feelings - Gift of God exhibition features a unique collection of
27 African masks crafted with natural vegetation
Taurai Maduna, Kubatana.net
April 06, 2006
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Oscar Melendres explains why he used natural vegetation in making
Mpilo Hospital located in Bulawayo Zimbabwe's second largest city,
attends to hundreds of patients seeking medical attention. The doctors
are few, medical supplies are in short supply and the cost of medication
is beyond the reach of many. If you take the time to look at the
faces of the patients milling around Mpilo Hospital, you'll see
both joy and sadness reflected in their expressions.
Melendres the chaplain at Mpilo Hospital has used his interaction
with patients as inspiration to produce a collection of masks called
African Feelings - Gift of God.
Feelings - Gift of God exhibition opened at the National Gallery
of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on March 23rd. The exhibition features a
unique collection of 27 African masks that are crafted with natural
While some people
associate masks with witchcraft and voodoo rituals, Brother Melendres
argues that masks have a deeper meaning that does not necessarily
reflect bad spirits. The artist says that people can interpret his
masks in any way they like. "I am using the mask with an open
imagination. Through the mask I can express the customs of the people,
their beliefs and rituals," says the Argentinean artist who
has lived in Zimbabwe since 1987.
is a well-crafted mask alive with bright colours symbolic of
unity, harmony and peace
into the exhibition hall is covered with a cloth that creates the
impression of entering a holy and sacred environment. My Rainbow
is a mask that captures your attention the moment you walk into
the exhibition. It is a well-crafted mask alive with bright colours,
which according to the artist, is symbolic of unity, harmony and
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and inspiring mask is called Disharmony. Apparently this mask is
the story of what the people are really saying. "I am talking
on behalf of the people that I deal with daily. I have seen certain
disharmony in their lives, sadness and joy," reflects Brother
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But not all
the masks tell a sad story. There is optimism in Hope in the Dark,
a face divided in half. One side is dark reflecting the hardships
that people are going through, while the other side is white, expressing
hope and of life overcoming death.
Oscar Melendres says he began making masks as a hobby but later
decided to create a collection for an exhibition in August 2005.
The collections of masks by this vibrant artist are symbolic of
his religious and medical work in Zimbabwe The artist attributes
the use of natural vegetation to Genesis in the bible, which outlines
the goodness of creativity.
of the masks from African
Feelings - Gift of God exhibition
says that by using vegetation it shows that what God created is
good. "When branches and leaves die and become compost, the
process of life begins. I'm using this vegetation to let God speak."
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masks by Brother Oscar Melendres go a long way in giving a voice
to the majority of Zimbabweans who are suffering in silence. Chimurenga
musician Thomas Mapfumo calls this kukuvarira mukati (suffering
from the sale of the masks will be given to people who are in need
of assistance, the people who speak to Brother Oscar Melendres on
a daily basis outlining their problems in life.
Feelings - Gift of God is currently showing at the National Gallery
of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. The exhibition ends on April 24, 2006.
Oscar Melendres SVD can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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