The Sunday News
Africa has for ever been the focal point of the entire globe. The reasons for this fascination in Africa has been due to its mystery, minerals, amazing cultural energy and belief structures.
Africa thus became a mystery to foreigners as a result of foreigners failing to take their time to interpret and learn our cultures and spiritual habits. In social media terms, one can argue that Africa has always been “trending” and until today Africa is “trending”.
For decades upon the so called discovery of Africa by Europeans, Africa has been a constant fascination and until today in the 21st century Africa is not only “trending” but is setting the trend.
Africa is setting the global trend though visual arts, literature, spoken word, theatre and song.
It can be argued that the entire concept of the European modernist movement has major elements that were adopted from Africa but not acknowledged and that is how movements such as cubism flourished.
It is therefore strange when one studies art and attempts to draw inspiration from the published European texts and realise that the revered artists that championed the modernist movement gathered their technique and concepts from African artistic creations.
The Cubist period, founded by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, was the most heavily influenced Western art movement by African art.
Artists in movements like Cubism and Fauvism rejected realism in favour of bold colours and forms. Picasso and Matisse collected African art and travelled to North Africa.
In African art there are four major forms that they particularly follow. The first form is the human figure, which would represent chiefs, ancestors, and even forces of nature (flora and fauna). The second form is abstraction and stylisation which was preferred over realistic representations. The third form was sculpture.
Zimbabwean art includes decorative aesthetics applied to many aspects of life, including art objects as such, utilitarian objects, objects used in religion, warfare, in propaganda, and in many other spheres that engage ceremonial function.
Within this broad arena, Zimbabwe has several identifiable categories of art. It is a hallmark of African cultures in general that art touches many aspects of life, and most tribes have a vigorous and often recognisable canon of styles and a great range of art-worked objects.
These can include masks, drums, textile decoration, bead-work, carving, sculpture, ceramic in various forms, housing and the individual themselves. Decoration of the body in permanent ways such as scarification or tattoo or impermanently as in painting the body for a ceremony is a common feature of African cultures.
Spoken word or music is also a prominent part of African identity generally and is very vibrant in Zimbabwe. Various instruments including drums, hosho, mbira, have and are still being used in Zimbabwe, while oratory, poetry, fable telling, praise singing and tribal ritual chants are also prominent.
In recent decades Zimbabwe has become widely recognised internationally for its sculpture and modern contemporary painting. Art in Zimbabwe lost most of its spiritual power with the conversion of the majority of the population to Christianity in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Missionaries harmed the local cultures by demanding destruction of anything they regarded as anti-Christian, in particular masks or carvings thought to have supernatural powers or created as divining instruments, that is, to be appealing to some god that was not the Christian one.
By the second world war most art objects produced in Zimbabwe were simply produced for tourist and local white settler consumption.
Travellers to the Zimbabwe during the Victorian period, used art, especially painting, to depict some of what they saw there.
This art of the colonial period took landscape as its main theme and many of the European artists were present as part of expeditions that aimed to inform the public in Europe about life in Africa. It is through their landscape drawings and sketches of African life so that the Europeans overseas could get to learn about Africa, while we (Africans) learnt about the West through biblical references that came with “parables” that made us feel not worthy and thus the kings and queens of Zimbabwe got “diluted” with foreign ideologies.
Made in Zimbabwe is an idea that is aimed at establishing a sense of pride in being who we are. Our art from Zimbabwe has for years inspired the world. Art from Zimbabwe has always possessed the strength and ability to communicate messages and fascinate the west. Made in Zimbabwe refers to the art “made in Zimbabwe” and overspills into referring to the artists themselves. Our artists are proudly “made” in Zimbabwe and are key “assets” to our country. Our stories from Zimbabwe have for decades revealed different intense stages of the birth of Zimbabwe.
As artists, it is our mission to proudly represent home from within Zimbabwe and from the diaspora. Work from Zimbabwe has always been filled with depth and meaning and our contemporary artists keep making us proud.