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We look for the work that gets a reaction: Interview with Gina Maxim, Assistant Director at Gallery Delta
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
April 12, 2011

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Gina Maxim (L)
Gina (L) chatting with a client at Gallery Delta

Established in 1975, Gallery Delta is an important venue in Harare for changing exhibitions of Zimbabwean paintings, graphics, mixed media sculptures and ceramics. The gallery is situated in the former home of Robert Paul (1906 - 1980), now regarded as Zimbabwe's finest landscape painter. Built in 1894 it may well be the oldest extant house in the city and, now restored, provides a unique historical, architectural and artistic environment for the presentation and sale of contemporary art.

Can you tell me a little bit about Gallery Delta?
I've been here for ten years. I started as a student intern from Chinhoyi University. The reason why I came to the gallery is that it's one gallery that doesn't show pretty pictures. By that I mean a pretty landscape that matches the walls, the furniture or the curtains. The work here is really strong, really dark, and it shows the feelings of the artist and what comes from the heart. I think this is the best definition of contemporary art. We have maybe 30 artists that continue to rely on us and they know that if they bring work here it will surely be accepted no matter how different it is and they have a chance of selling it at Gallery Delta. Listen

Artwork hanging at Gallery Delta

The gallery has been in existence for 35 years. On the 17 of April we will be celebrating our 36th year. Derek Huggins and Helen Lieros opened it. The building that Gallery Delta is in, at 110 Livingstone Avenue, used to be the house of Robert Paul, a landscape painter. He used to live here with his wife and two children. We have been here since 1991, and have tried to maintain the same feeling of the old house. In 2008 things went really sour and people left Zimbabwe - the very affluent white person and even the young affluent black person left the country. We also experienced a variety of artists leaving, going to South Africa. We were left with young artists were not really good, and the old ones who were still struggling to try and keep their market. At that time Derek and Helen decided to give up the ownership of the gallery and turn it into a Trust. Today it is now known as Gallery Delta Foundation for Art and the Humanities. We have artists that come here to borrow money for different reasons. They see us as a small bank. We recover that money by selling artwork. Listen

When you're searching for artists what qualities or characteristics do you look for?
With the arts it's quite relative; it's quite personal. When you look at art, it hits you, you feel something and it moves you. It gets a reaction, and that's what we do. We look for the work that gets a reaction. Every year we have a young artist exhibition. Young artist meaning you've left school, you want to be part of the art game, you want to feel how it's like, and so this is your chance. We get about 120 artists. It's now spreading and going as far as Kadoma and Gweru. Other small towns also hear that Gallery Delta has a young artist exhibition. That's where we pick up usually two or three [artists]. Some of the artists that are with us now are from the young artist exhibition. If you then sit down with the artists and you hear their backgrounds - what they've been through, what they're going through, it is just amazing the way they have sacrificed a lot for their art. They're very poor and all they want is that one chance of fame and glory. Listen

Artwork hanging at Gallery Delta

You are currently exhibiting work by Masimba Hwati. Can you describe his artwork?
Masimba Hwati is a very deep thinker. He's a very intelligent artist, something that is very rare. He has a very precise and good finish, even when you see him write, when you read the notes he has, or his statements, they're very well thought out, very well planned. He has a good flow of ideas.

What is it like to run a gallery in Harare?
It is difficult from many perspectives. When we look at the clientele, there are some very rich people out there, but because we show some work that is macabre, they won't buy the art. Secondly, we turn away many artists. Some are so good, they can paint a portrait really well, but because that's not the kind of art that we carry, we turn them away. It's also difficult getting funding. Some donors get a little scared. Art in Zimbabwe can be very political. The donors that we get are those that are quite gutsy. It's difficult. I applaud Derek and Helen for opening this Gallery despite the odds.

What is the art market like in Zimbabwe?
It's like we've gone back into the courtship time and yet before 2008 we were ok; we weren't courting anyone. It wasn't as hard as it is now where you have to sit down and think; if we put these artists in the exhibition is it going to sell? If we put this particular exhibition on will it bring people? Will we get funding for it? Who do we approach for just a few hundred dollars for the opening night for drinks and snacks?

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