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Dondo steers Gwanza exhibition with passion


Since the formation of the annual Gwanza Photography exhibition over 10 years ago, the August exhibition has attained a reputation of attracting some of the biggest crowds at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ).

Founded by the award-winning internationally acclaimed Zimbabwean photographer Calvin Dondo, Gwanza Arts is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the development and promotion of photography and hosting the biggest annual photography exhibition in Zimbabwe.

Dondo decided to form Gwanza after realising the need to provide a platform for interaction between local and international photographers. Previously an association of Zimbabwean photographers had been formed and folded after two years.

Gwanza means a frame and in the context of the exhibition, it reflects a timeframe of certain events as depicted in the photographs. We came up with the name after searching for a Shona word that could describe photography and identify ourselves as Zimbabweans, he said.

The exhibition has over the years assisted local photographers by giving them great mileage during the displays and has seen the works of some of the countrys most talented photographers like Tsvangirai Mukwazhi, Shamiso Mupure, Aaron Ufumeli, Nancy Mteki, Ann Mpalume, Rodney Murungweni and Desmond Kwande, among many others.

When it comes to success in photography it takes more than the passion. One has to read and go for many exhibitions to learn more and Im proud of the spirit of motivation we have created for photographers through Gwanza.

The tall masculine and soft spoken father of two, discovered his passion for photography in 1962 after seeing a picture of children in a refugee camp that was in one of the local newspapers. He loved the quality of the picture and from that moment he knew he wanted to be a professional photographer, thus in 1985 he enrolled at the Harare Polytechnic School of Photography.

He worked as a National Registry photographer before freelancing for various newspapers including some in countries like Finland, Sweeden and Norway.

He has won several awards including the Fellowship Award by the Panos Institute based in UK where he got a cash award and materials to conduct a photo project addressing environmental issues, as well as the Seydou Keta Award at the Bamako Photography festival in Mali, which is the biggest photo festival in Africa.

Dondo has also been resident artist in many prominent places including Germanys University of Bayreath, Iwalewa Haus Centre for African Studies and also at the Villa Wadebertha Artist Residency programme.

Besides photography, I like reading and jogging and I do not have a role model, but I have been inspired by works of Bester Kanyama, who was the first black photo journalist in Zimbabwe, John Mauluka and Andreas Gursky from Germany.

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