BY NYADZOMBE NYAMPENZA
NATIONAL Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ), in partnership with Morgan & Co, last week rewarded local artists aged between 18 and 41 years for their response to the COVID-19 pandemic through a themed exhibition.
The exhibition, dubbed Artspiration, saw emerging and practising artists being challenged to create artworks that put new perspectives on historical works and push artistic practice in new directions.
Artists, who participated in the masked exhibition, mirrored society’s fears, anxiety, and hope against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The exhibition, was an expression of beliefs that have become etched in the collective consciousness such as hand sanitising, social distancing, and wearing of face masks.
Adoption of these prescribed measures has become a survival mechanism all over the world.
The exhibition created local awareness, and maintained urgency over the life and death issue.
Held under the theme Masked, the juried exhibition saw winners selected in categories, namely drawing, painting and sculptures.
In the first category, Tafara Magumise received first prize for his piece Plight of Man, while Prudence Chimutuwah was adjudged second for the piece Locked In with Talent Kapadza getting the third prize for Christ Unmasked and Mapfupa Akaswederana.
Other highly recommended works were Wongororo by Mukudzei Muzondo, Tariro (Hope) by Keith Zenda, and Pain and Hope by Pritchard Chirume.
Magumise’s winning piece is a relatable drawing of a male headshot wearing a face mask that is made of chainmail.
Mandatory face mask wearing is an emotive subject that has led people to play cat and mouse with police who enforce the public health policy.
Inzwirashe Blessing Masvodza echoed the concept in a painting that features a female headshot titled Chained.
The image of chains was reinforced by Chimutuwah’s collage, which depicts her trademark despondent woman in royal blue seated on the ground.
The common halo motif that crowns her female subjects is adapted to reflect the outline of the virus.
The woman is chained on her wrists. Her face mask that is fashioned from decommissioned Zimbabwean currency highlights the current cost of a mask, and growing expense arising from the pandemic.
Chimutuwah’s piece finds resonance in Deodoris Nyaradzo Mawanda’s frontline artwork in which a female medical practitioner in scrubs is on her knees with hands tied at the back.
Mawanda who is a nurse, highlighted with tangible empathy the challenges faced by frontline workers, a notion that is also dramatically illustrated by Donald Bvute’s piece Call of Duty.
On the other hand, Kapadza’s layered work combined the iconic image of Christ with see-through fabric that acts as cover.
This carries an echo from face shields, and many layers that people have to put on to create a barrier between themselves and the novel virus.
In the second category, Agrippa Tirigu came first for his piece Corona Virus Eroded the World, while second prize went to Terrence Musekiwa for Kumbotura Mafemo (to breathe) artwork and Clive Mukucha won the third prize for his Matomhu Evanhu.
The highly recommended works were Smibio Bangura’s COVID-19 Survivor, Elisha Gondo’s Prevention is Better than Cure, and Cosmas Chingodi’s The Yao Masks.
Tirigu’s winning piece was an abstract stone sculpture depicting the virus against layers of stone seemingly eroded by the machine-like pathogen.
It is a figurative piece that speaks to social and economic damage caused by the pandemic.
Mukuchas’ piece is a final warning that depicts a sickly figure on a stretcher.
The figure with a gaping mouth and popped eyes is surrounded by eclectic and spiritual symbols that seem to bring no relief.
The exhibition also revealed how the pandemic has increased the burden for women.
This is brought to light in works such as Praying Widow, Disabled Woman, Pain and Hope, COVID-19 Survivor, Masked, C-19 Prevention, Awake 1 & 2, Heroes Acre, Our Heroine in the Pandemic, Our Saviour, and 1 Metre Pakati.
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