The Sunday News
Sandisiwe Gumbo, Sunday Life Reporter
A Zimbabwe-born United Kingdom-based artist, Bokani Tshidzu has showcased her artistic talent through her solo exhibition titled “Sibone Okunye” at the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo, dwelling into stories, hopes, and dreams of women, blurring the boundaries between the past, present and future.
Tshidzu moved to the United Kingdom at the age of 13 where she later obtained her undergraduate degree and postgraduate qualifications. The solo exhibition, which was held recently, showcased her artistic abilities and dedication to exploring the human experience through visual art. In an interview, she revealed that the exhibition presents a collection that centres on women’s narratives, shedding light to different perspectives and aspirations.
“It’s called Sibone Okunye of which I love the ambiguity of that phase, Sibone Okunye in the past, so, there are many objects here that are from our past and traditions. Sibone Okunye, let’s see other things in the market, and what are the other options for women. What are the other things that we want for ourselves? Sibone Okunye, we are shocked.
“We have Icansi in my exhibition, when people talk of Icansi they are usually talking about sex and intimacy, and I am not shying away from that. I’m saying let’s talk about our intimate relationships in a way that empowers women and centres on women’s pleasure and enjoyment. I’m a feminist in a very African sense and I want to show the value of the things that we often forget and neglect in our homes by women.”
Visitors to the Art Gallery in Bulawayo were welcomed into an appealing world where Tshidzu’s art took them on a journey through time and emotion. The immersive installations allowed the connection with the stories being portrayed. One of the highlights of the exhibition was a series of paintings.
“I used the spray paint which we normally see in graffiti.”
She noted that her personal background has played a significant role in the creation of exhibitions.
“There are stars, it’s sort of a love letter to the extraordinary women in my life. My mother’s name was Stella and she died when I was seven years old. So whenever stars come up whether it’s the exhibition or elsewhere, I feel her presence. I look into the sky, which is part of our tradition, how we think about our ancestors as well as them being away from us but still guiding us and protecting us. So, the healing section, the maringa, it talks to how ‘she’ was somebody who healed a grieving child. There are hints of my private life throughout so I put it in abstract, in symbols, although I’m a very private person myself.”
Tshidzu was raised by her aunt after her mother died, hence the healing section refers to how she was able to take care of her after the loss of her mother. Through her art, she aims to empower women and challenge societal norms. She seeks to celebrate the strength and resilience of women while also acknowledging the obstacles they face. The exhibition serves as a platform for these important conversations to take place within the community.
“I decided to focus on the stories, hopes, and dreams of women as they are often overlooked, I wanted to make the first show ever in my home town to be for people to really know who I am, so I carefully and respectfully framed the stories but I wanted it to be a thank you. I have done over 30 exhibitions in France and in UK.”
Tshidzu is widely known for her talents as an abstract painter and artist, who rose to fame after appearing on the BBC programme The Big Painting Challenge. From the very start, she pleased audiences with her unique and diverse talent, winning the public vote in the first week.