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State of the nation, according to Kudzi Chiurai
Nhamo Rupare, Pambazuka News
November 09, 2011
Born in 1981 in Zimbabwe,
Kudzanai Chiurai is an internationally acclaimed artist now living
and working in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was the first black
student to graduate with a BA in Fine Art from the University of
Pretoria. Highly regarded as a leading voice of his generation,
Kudzi has made a name for himself as a thought provoking artist
who uses his art to highlight the many fallacies of our continent
with specific focus on African leaders and culture. Chiurai's
early work focused on the political, economic and social strife
in his homeland and has since evolved to reflect a continental dialogue
that puts the state and its people at the centre of progress or
the lack thereof. Seminal works like ‘Presidential Wallpaper'
depicted Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe as a sell-out and this
led to Chiurai's exile from Zimbabwe.
Armed with a paint brush
and a strong desire for change Kudzi has become somewhat of a legend
in the niche world of pan-African urban culture. For someone who
has achieved so much in a short space of time with bodies of artwork
that speak loudly, his humility, sensitivity and introverted personality
are humbling, making for an interesting harmonious contrast between
the artist and his work.
His latest presentation
titled ‘State of the Nation' is intended to explore
aspects of a constructed African state that bears scars of political
and cultural discourses. On a continent that has experienced more
violent conflicts than any other, this exhibition follows an individual's
narration of events that lead up to the inaugural speech by the
first democratically elected president. The conflict that exists
between cultural vistas and postmodern political narratives is evident
in Chiurai's work. Themes range from rituals, genocide memories
of Rwanda and the all too familiar propaganda machine of the state
to win hearts and minds of the nation. The vivid and curated portrayal
of political scenes and the fear it imposes on the general populace
is both profound and sad. The political truth of our continent is
captured in every line and colour and together the state of all
our nations is laid bare.
curated the exhibition in partnership with the Goethe Institute
and collaborations with photographer Jurie Potgieter, singers Thandiswa
Mazwai and Zaki Ibrahim as well as clever use of technology brought
this body of work to life. Chiurai references child and woman soldiers,
African liberation movements and civil wars. He tracks the similarities
between societal, political and ideological doctrines of nations
in tumultuous times of transition with the often-ignored impact
these cacophonous changes have on citizens.
of public and private were highlighted in performances that took
place in the streets of Newtown and in the exhibition space that
fostered private conversations about the state of our own nation
as well as the artist's work. A sound and technology installation
scores the gallery experience. The influence of hip-hop in Kudzi's
own life is evident in his installations.
In a style similar to
previous bodies of work such as ‘Dying to be Men' series
and ‘Black President', Chiurai's constructed environments
are enticing, seductive and explore real casualties of African independence
and critically examine the role of state public servants in advancing
democracy. This ‘State of the Nation' exhibition is
a timely theme that comes at a time when the continent is grappling
with its democratic identity and the role of the state in bringing
real freedom and justice to its people.
As an art lover and a
follower of Kudzi's work, I'm hoping his social themes
will evolve to depict some of the goodness on our continent and
the power of the individual in bringing about change in their own
community regardless of the state. Kudzi has the ability, passion
and drive to start painting imageries of Africa that shows progress
and a people with an undying spirit for survival and entrepreneurship.
Nhamo Rupare is of Shona origin and lives life through the creative
eye and dreams of Afrika regaining her dignity and her sons and
daughters developing the necessary mental freedom to love peace
and communal co-existence. He is an award-winning Afrikan-centred
brand specialist, percussionist, writer and a Pan-Afrikan thinker.
He is chief editor of www.kush.co.za,
a co-founder of Kush Kollective and a Partner of TEDx Soweto. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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