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Five Bhobh Conversations (Mellon "Southern Epistemologies" seminar series)

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Richard Mudariki with painting “Scan, Reform, Format” at Zeitz MOCAA.©2018
Richard Mudariki with painting “Scan, Reform, Format” at Zeitz MOCAA.©2018

Five Bhobh Conversations 

Zeitz MOCAA Curator Tandazani Dhlakama and Artist Richard Mudariki

Thursday 23 May 2019 

1:00 - 2:00 pm: Presentations by Tandazani Dhlakama and Richard Mudariki

2:00 – 3:00 pm: Coffee and conversation with the Curator and the Artist

Feel free to attend either one of these sessions if you can’t make both 

Venue: The Arts Lounge

Arts of Africa and Global Souths research programme

5 Rhodes Avenue (Cnr Lucas Avenue, near Rhodes Health Centre) 

The exhibition “Five Bhobh: Painting at the End of an Era” was curated by Tandazani Dhlakama at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) in Cape Town, and featured the works of twenty-nine artists from Zimbabwe. 

Curator’s Biography:

Tandazani Dhlakama occupies the roles of Curator and Education Manager at Zeitz MOCAA. Dhlakama has worked as the Curator of Education and Public Programming at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare, and was recently the conference coordinator for the 2017 International Conference on African Cultures, which took place in Harare. During her time at the NGZ, Dhlakama was involved in the curation of several exhibitions. These include Dis(colour)ed Margins (2017); ZimbabweIN Design (2014, 2017); Women at the Top (2014); Engaging with "the Other" (2013); as well as several annual school and college exhibitions. Dhlakama also worked as a curator at Tsoko Gallery, an independent art space in Harare, where she curated their inaugural exhibition Beyond the Body (2016) and was involved in the establishment of the space. Dhlakama was selected to participate in various curatorial programmes throughout Africa, including the Independent Curators International (ICI) Curatorial Intensive in Dakar (Senegal 2016); the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) Curatorial Training Programme in Cape Town (South Africa 2015); and the New Ideas, New Possibilities Curatorial Forum and Workshop through the National Gallery in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe 2013). In 2017 she was part of the Mondriaan Fund Visitors Program. Dhlakama is a Beit Scholar. She holds an MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies from the University of Leeds (2015) and a BA in Fine Art and Political Science from St. Lawrence University (2011). She has contributed to Africanah, PanoramaJewel, Stitch and Artlife magazines. 

Artist’s Biography:

Richard Mudariki (b. 1985) trained as an Archaeologist from 2005-2009 and as a painter under the mentorship of renowned artists Allen Kupeta, Helen Leiros and Greg Shaw in Harare, Zimbabwe from 2000-2009. Richard’s paintings are a visual comment on various aspect of life in Africa. He lives and works in Cape Town. Recent solo exhibitions include Politics of Painting, 1-54/Banard Gallery, 2019, New York, Mawonero Angu (My Reality), Banard Gallery, 2018, Cape Town, an early career retrospective titled Mutara Wenguva (Time Line) at  Sanlam Art Collection in  Johannesburg and Cape Town. He has participated in numerous fairs including among others the Cape Town Art Fair, 2014-2019; 1:54 Contemporary Art Fair, London, UK, from 2013 to 2018 and New York, USA, in 2015 and 2019, Johannesburg Art Fair, Johannesburg, from 2012 to 2015 and Also Known As Africa, Paris in 2018. Recent group shows include Five Bhob, Painting at the End of an Era at Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, a travelling exhibition titled Centinnial: 100 Years of Collecting from the Sanlam Art Collection and Filling the Gap at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town. Richard has spoken about his practice to various audiences around the world, recently at 1-54 Contemporary African Art in New York under the title Without a name: Living and working in between Spaces, as well as at a roundtable discussion on African contemporary art as its ecosystem at UNESCO, Paris, as part of their Africa Department Discussions. 

Curator’s Statement:

Five Bhobh is the average fare needed to journey locally by kombi (minibus) in Zimbabwe. As soon as you are crammed in, four in each row, the conductor will announce “Five bhobh!” or “Two pa dollar!” You may hear the tinkling of coins being collected and observe lower denominations of notes unfolding from sweaty palms, pockets and blouses. Monotonously shoulders in the front rows are tapped as money is moved forward and change is negotiated until it reaches the hwindi (bus conductor). By then the engine is roaring and the driver is negotiating his exit from the bustling terminus. Passengers may begin to converse. Matters of everyday life in Zimbabwe are discussed always in codes with a diverse array of figurative language. They have paid their dues, invested in the future, and are waiting expectantly to move forward. 

This exhibition features twenty-nine artists from Zimbabwe. In various ways they mark the end of an era, offering foresight into an alternative dispensation. Here the kombi is like the nation of Zimbabwe; the artists its passengers, who engage in social commentary through calculated gesture. Painting has a long history in Zimbabwe. In its broadest sense, it can be defined as the application of pigment on a surface or the manipulation of materials that are traditionally associated with painting. This exhibition provides a synopsis of the medium as it applies to Zimbabwe today, challenging traditional ideas around how painting is defined. In some cases, the painting is stripped to its most basic form, exposing threadbare canvas. At other times, paint is mixed into substances such as silicone, synthetic hair, and wood. For decades, artists from Zimbabwe have manipulated this medium as a way of subtly articulating complex issues, speaking in intricate, allegorical codes.  

Present-day painting comes at a heightened socio-political moment. Recent events in Zimbabwe have left many asking, “Where are we going? What comes next? How do we get there?”  For some, the journey may not be a comfortable one. It may require coming back, picking up where one left off or unravelling forgotten layers of the past. Using various tones and gestures, the artists in this exhibition highlight the pressing questions emanating from a moment of great angst. They interrogate present-day circumstances, reimagine manifold futures, and recount entangled histories. 

The Mellon 30th anniversary seminar programme “Southern Epistemologies: Thinking Beyond the Abyss for a Transformative Curriculum” is organized by the School of Journalism and Media Studies in collaboration with Fine Art, Creative Writing and ISER.

Image: Richard Mudariki with painting “Scan, Reform, Format” at Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (copyright Richard Mudariki 2018)

Source:  Arts of Africa and Global Souths

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