THE recently-opened Njelele Gallery in the capital is expected to provide artistes the opportunity to showcase their cultural artefacts and make them accessible to the public.
Report by Tinashe Sibanda
Named after the sacred place near Bulawayo where rain-making and traditional ceremonies take place, Njelele embodies the traditional heritage of the people of Zimbabwe and the gallery is a space for creative and visual ritual.
“We aim to uplift local art practice by offering a site for artistic experimentation, exhibition and exchange. There is urgent need for a space to support, promote and empower artistes to realise their dreams and achieve a sustainable livelihood,” said gallery founder and artistic director Dana Whabira.
Whabira, who is also a visual artiste and architect, said Njelele believed in building people through investing in human capital.
She said the gallery would focus on contemporary art forms and multi-media techniques, such as photography, film, animation, sound, installation and performance art. The gallery aims at a radical shift of the notions of Zimbabwean art to a dynamic cultural movement.
“Njelele will act as a seedbed for talent forming a creative laboratory to test and experiment with different media. An experimental space will allow artistes to expand and develop new technical skills, as well as diversify and generate new work,” said Whabira.
As the first ever exhibition at Njelele, renowned photographer, Calvin Dondo’s exhibition Vahombe: Vanobuda Mumvura Vachikwira Mumakore, was officially opened on May 7 and runs to June 22.
According to the gallery’s administrator, Gladys Hwami : “Calvin’s choice to be the first to exhibit was a significant stepping stone as the exhibition brought about a great turnout thus showing us that we are on the right direction.”
Whabira added that Njelele offered an alternative platform to the few existing art galleries as there was an acute shortage of exhibition spaces as recent years have seen the closure of many galleries in Harare, such as Chapungu Sculpture Park, Totem Gallery and Matombo Gallery among others.
She said the space was the first of its kind in Zimbabwe, allowing an international residency project programme that will expose local artists to new approaches, new methods and cutting edge art forms. Whabira added that the project space would act as a catalyst for change and growth in the field and they hoped Njelele would have far-reaching effects by inspiring similar initiatives across the country.
“Njelele is a socially-engaged dynamic space that allows audience involvement, participation and interaction through exhibitions and events, including adult education and public outreach programmes that stimulate social cohesion and understanding and in addition exhibitions are free and open to all making contemporary fine art accessible to all,” she said.
Whabira said Njelele would aid in the revival of a vibrant and thriving arts culture in Zimbabwe and contribute to the development of the contemporary artistic landscape of the African continent.
Njelele’s downtown location attracts the general public through its community-driven approach.