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Exhibition on Musarurwa’s Skokiaan

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BY SHARON SIBINDI

THE National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) in Bulawayo will be hosting an exhibition aimed at setting a dialogue on many narratives, memories, fictional and documentary accounts inspired by the story of Skokiaan, the famous music piece composed by August Musarurwa.

The piece was first performed by Musarurwa’s band, Bulawayo Sweet Rhythms, in the 1940s before it was re-done by many different artistes around the world, including Louis Armstrong, who visited the country in 1960 and met Musarurwa.

The exhibition — dubbed Moving Stories and Travelling Rhythms: Penny Siopis and the Many Journeys of Skokiaan — will run from Friday untill August 31.

The exhibition will feature Olga Speakes, an art historian and lecturer based at the University of Cape Town.

Speakes said she had been working on the project since last year.

“It is one of those that takes you where you never thought you would go, meandering your way through texts, histories, memories, places, meeting incredible people and allowing the story to unfold,” she said.

“The show will include a site responsive installation, paintings in ink, glue and a video artwork, Welcome Visitor, all by a South African artist Penny Siopis. Siopis uses montage techniques to combine found footage – anonymous home movies of the sixties and some media sequences of Armstrong’s visit to Africa — with text and music, creating a narrative that speaks beyond the specific historically documented circumstances of the encounter between the two musicians.”

NGZ assistant curator Clifford Zulu said the exhibition would also feature a documentary film by Joyce Jenje Makwenda on the history of music in Zimbabwe.

He said township music provided a wider context for the narratives explored in the artworks through many personal interviews.

“The voices of the artist and the historian are echoed by the voices that animate the pages of Yvonne Vera’s famous novel, The Stone Virgins. These voices reclaim their own memories of Satchmo and Skokiaan from histories that excluded them,” he said.

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