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"If art is suppressed, then it means we cannot continue with art, or life itself" - Interview with Danisile Ncube
Marko Phiri,
May 2011

Read interviews with other Bulawayo creatives here

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Danisile NcubeDanisile Ncube is a Bulawayo visual artist, multi-media sculptor and artistic photographer whose work has found its way all over the world since the 1990s. His famous "Statue of Liberty" that took him a year to complete can be found tucked away in one of Bulawayo's leafy suburbs. He took some time off to talk about his work.

Your work is pretty diverse. Can you break it down for us?
I am into metal sculpture and use any material in mixed media sculpture. I can work in stainless steel, mild steel, tyres, wood, water, anything I can find around me. I do abstract painting as it really brings out the freedom within me. I am also the only artist in Zimbabwe who does contemporary metal masks. They are composed of mixed media from found objects. I use any kind of scrap that I find; spanners, scrap metal, stuff that people throw away. I do recycle a lot. I do collages using photos on paper and conceptual art, which is what I taught for six months in Durban.

What inspires your work?
I am inspired by socio-political issues, things happening all over the world, environmental issues even looking at the tsunami in Japan. Disasters that are happening in our country, what I see around me, like Operation Murambatsvina. I have done work on that.

Have issues of censorship ever been of concern to you?
My work has tended to portray sensitive issues but censorship has never been my concern. Not because I look for trouble, I do not look for trouble but most of the time people do not understand my work. Art is a language that people must learn to understand whereby things that are happening in a socio-political environment are given their proper context. But artists generally cannot be stopped from reflecting what is happening around them. If art is suppressed, then it means we cannot continue with art or life itself. You cant stop an artist or any human being from brining out information. For example, when we look at Hitler's atrocities, how the world got to know about these is from what can be found at Holocaust museums. Listen

Are artists like you able to live off your work?
Sure. For the past two decades I can say that I have been living off art and nothing else. Unfortunately because of the political situation in the country over the last few years, tourists who have appreciated our work, stopped coming into the country. We have unique works and my own work can be found all over the world. Once the doors open and people start coming in, artists can earn a living because Zimbabwean art has a lot of people interested in it.

How different is Bulawayo sculpture from Harare where big names have emerged over the years? Does Bulawayo offer different inspiration?
Harare sculpture is known for its stone, but for us here in Bulawayo we have used other media like steel, wood and other mixed media. In Bulawayo you find a lot of metal scrap yards so it has been easy for Bulawayo artists to collect metal for their work and use that as their medium. The themes that Bulawayo artists depict are also different, in that Bulawayo has its own unique stories.

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Audio File

  • Censorship
    Language: English
    Duration: 52sec
    Date: May 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 817KB

  • Surviving as an artist
    Language: English
    Duration: 31sec
    Date: May 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 498KB

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