BY NYADZOMBE NYAMPENZA
IT was almost business as usual for the first exhibition at Gallery Delta since the demise of its founders, Helen Lieros and Derek Huggins, who succumbed to COVID-19 within a week of each other in July this year.
The official opening had the sentiment of a wake that most could not attend due to family privacy and COVID-19 restrictions.
It created a moment of catharsis for artists and patrons to face the reality of Helen and Derek’s departure.
The exhibition was conceived as collaboration between Helen and Derek, with the Greek community in Zimbabwe.
The theme of the exhibition was inspired by 200 years of Greek independence from Ottoman rule with Greece ambassador Loukas Karatsolis officially opening the exhibition.
He described the exhibition as a happy and sad occasion because of the loss of the gallery founders, adding that Helen and Derek’s work was the “biggest contribution” that the Greeks had made to the country.
With staff and guests acting out of the usual script, it looked as if nothing had changed, but there were subtle differences in the exhibition’s opening.
Lin Barrie’s three-part installation Freedom Post, is out in the garden when previous exhibitions were confined to the gallery.
Patrons could not hear Helen’s distinct voice over the general chatter of the gallery crowd. Visitors would frequently bump into Derek as he quietly made his way to one of the offices, but this time he was conspicuous by his absence.
The exhibition features the usual line-up of artists in a thematically cohesive show that appeals to market and commercial interests and beyond.
Some of Helen’s works are mounted in her office. These include Sacrificial Goat and Berma Doors (1998). The artworks bring back Helen’s presence to her former sanctuary.
The theme of the exhibition is represented in diverse and illuminating ways.
Some artworks like Barrie’s Winged Victory — Beyond Beyonce convey abstract and figurative senses of freedom.
Other works like Athur Azevedo’s Freedom & Death Captain Michales reference practical and political concepts.
There are also works such as Mukudzei Muzondo’s Tirimuchi Round 1 which subvert the notion of freedom, by challenging oppressive systems that are its antithesis.
Lovemore Kambudzi’s All Lives Matter graphically represents what lack of freedom looks and feels like.
David Brazier’s Dust Dance and Albert Wachi’s Dancing Girl depart from the rest by depicting freedom as pure unadulterated pleasure. The gallery, which is now overseen by a board of trustees, had installation of the works done by the gallery staff, including a few participating artists and some members of the board.
Although the show was not specifically dedicated to Helen and Derek, it stands as a perfect requiem for their decade’s long commitment to freedom of expression for Zimbabwean visual artists. The exhibition runs until the end of December.
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