Kariba Dam construction under spotlight

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The National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) has compiled a documentary film about Kariba Dam’s construction and four artists’ works from the gallery’s permanent collection in an exhibition titled “Ten Thousand Men and Six Years of Sweat: The Visions of Kariba Construction, 1954-1960”.

Curated by Raphael Chikukwa, the exhibition focuses on the dam’s construction which was one of the major projects in the 1950s and today its story remains vivid in the minds of those that worked on it and those that were affected by the dam.

The exhibition runs this month to mid-November.

“The exhibition is displaying the works by Giovanni Novarasio, Waalko Dingermens, Sir Cyril J Hatty and Taylor Nkomo. Giovanni and Dingermens documented the construction of the dam from the 1950s to the 1960s,” said NGZ communications officer Rutendo Mutadzapasi.

Mutadzapasi said the two artists’ documentation started from early construction to the cable towers, while Taylor Nkomo’s sculpture, Tonga Man Crossing Zambezi River reflects the myth of the Tonga people’s movement across the Zambezi.

She said more than 14 works from Giovanni have never been exhibited publicly and this was as an opportunity to showcase these great works.

“At the centre of the Courtauld Gallery is a representation of the Tonga artefacts; the Makishi Dance costume, Tonga drums, stool and fish trap.
These artefacts represent the Tonga people who mainly resided in the Zambezi area and some are now living on the other side of the border in Zambia,” said Mutadzapasi.

She said some of the Tonga were displaced by the construction of the dam hence their way of life remains under spotlight.

Mutadzapasi said today the Tonga people who were resettled in Nyaminyami 15km from Kariba still do not have electricity more than fifty years after the construction of the dam which drives a power station.

“Some of these issues include the myths surrounding the Tonga people, displacement, loss, gains and environmental impact of the dam on the Zambezi inhabitants and the four artists’ narratives take us back to the vision of Kariba’s construction that was mainly to provide electricity to the industry and community,” she said.

She said the late Cyril Hatty’s view of Kariba at night showed the beauty of the dam while the documentary would take the viewer back to the early days of the construction to the end.

She said the exhibition was a collaboration between the NGZ and National Archives of Zimbabwe and was a way to show historical events in order to create dialogue in our society.