The National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) on Wednesday unveiled Weya Art Exhibition, representing over 30 works from 15 artists from the Weya Community Training Centre in Chiendambuya.
Curated by Raphael Chikukwa, the exhibition showcases unique colourful artworks in paintings, appliqué, embroidery and sculpture.
“Their creative energy is what makes this exhibition special. Most of them live and work at the centre,” said NGZ communications officer Rutendo Bako.
Bako said the weaving, appliqué and embroidery was traditionally a female domestic activity, associated with a practical purpose rather than the gallery walls.
She said the Weya artists’ works confronted this misconception and it was their hope that the tradition would survive as long as institutes like the NGZ continued to create a platform for them.
“These artists explore themes such as HIV, village life, land, water shortage, hunting, agriculture and transport problems in both urban and rural settings.”
Bako said the artists used old pieces of fabrics to create rural and urban life scenes in tight-knitted pieces and the curator had been impressed by their use of textiles in art after visiting their home studio.
The artists include Leticia Mukunyanyemba, Precious Rinomhota, Ceresensia Chibaya, Ednight Mugure, Joicy Sibanda, Maziweni Mapuranga, Albertina Nyamagorongga, Irene Mutanga, Lineet Mukwena, Gladys Chigayi, Gadiosa Nehanda, Faina Shonge, Irene Karuva, Tendai Dande and Rache Feremba.
Their extraordinary works will be displayed in the East Gallery and they will represent the vision of the Weya Artists and reflect on their way of life in the community.
“Karuva’s furniture piece shows how innovative these artists have become despite the limitation of art materials. Her scenes of houses and gardens explore our habitat and environment,” said Bako.
She said nature’s intricate structure and patterns had been an inspiration for most of the Weya artists and their art had no preparatory drawings which allowed their patterns to develop spontaneously.
The artists are self-taught and for a number of years worked under the watchful eye of a German volunteer, Ilse Noy, who arrived at the Weya Community Training Centre at the end of 1987.
Weya women’s art stretches over many years and the exhibition seeks to create a platform for these artists whose contribution needs to be acknowledged.
“According to some of the organisations that have been working with Weya artists, many of the artists have migrated to the city because of economic hardships and those that have remained in Chiendambuya are dedicating most of their time to tobacco farming,” she said.