BY NYADZOMBE NYAMPENZA
IT is a long winding road to Salanje and The Wailers Studio. The dusty uneven roads have been eroded by storm water that flows down the nameless streets during the rainy season.
In some places, residents have attempted to cover huge potholes and gullies using trash from their backyards.
Vending stalls on streets sides are laden with fruit, vegetables, candy, snacks and more.
There are shops built in small open grounds were jobless young men hang out listening to music, smoking, drinking liquor and occasionally shouting friendly and sometimes foul remarks to passersby.
A lot more goes on behind these scenes.
This is the background from which the quartet of visual artists Grace Nyahangare, Takudzwa Guzha, Lillian Magodi and Kudzanai Mavhura drew inspiration for their recent group exhibition titled Tribute hosted by Salanje and The Wailers Studio in Chitungwiza.
At the exhibition, the artists presented various interpretations, using different mediums and techniques that ranged from drawing and painting, to collage and screen-printing.
It is a rare occasion when the artists get to tell their stories at home, far from the commercial spaces of international blue-chip galleries.
For Guzha, his work constitutes recognisable faces and figures that represent actual people paying homage to friends, relatives and acquaintances who have touched his life in different ways.
One of his pieces titled Moyo Wekubereka shows disembodied garments as dedication to his mother for being there for him materially and spiritually through many experiences.
Although Guzha acknowledges having bought his mother stuff before, the artist feels he has not reciprocated enough.
Burdened by the perpetual impossibility of repaying a mothers’ sacrifice, the artwork is an expression of the artist’s yearning for more.
“I feel like I have to buy a dress for my mom.” Guzha told NewsDay Life & Style.
Mavhuras’ artworks, many of which are small colourful portraits, are expressive of many moods and emotions.
One of his pieces, a bug-eyed male face with a gaping mouth, is aptly titled Chishamiso.
The shocked expression carries a sense of mystery about what may have happened.
Another piece, which is not titled, speaks to hindrance of speech with a wild-eyed male face with a gaping mouth and torn stitches that once held it ominously shut.
One wonders what utterance comes out of the dark cavity after a painful silence that may or may not have been imposed.
There is a foreboding sense of catastrophe that might befall the speaker, and inevitable consequence for other interested parties.
Even if Mavhura says so himself: “These works are small, but they are big in message.’’
For Nyahangare, her work conveys a sense of mourning. One piece is dedicated to a deceased colleague, an artist who she says was her best friend who introduced her to the world of art.
Another artwork titled Tribute to My Yoni is a reflection on her youthful physical attributes that have been usurped by the marks and scars of motherhood.
The artworks are layered screen prints with collage and text, whose depth presages more profound work to come from Nyahangare, with more technical experimentation.
She professes that in spite of her progress, she is still evolving in a way.
Lilian Magodi’s artworks carry intense emotions. In one drawing, a seated female figure with arms crossed over her knees buries her face into her bosom under hunched shoulders.
The posture might be mistaken for that of a supplicant, but for the crossed feet with one foot stepping over the other signalling deep trauma.
It is a devastating portrait that elicits empathy and it seems to indict the viewer who can only observe without being able to take action.
Another of her artworks portrays a towering maternal figure with two children hugging her skirts.
The exaggerated perspective from below gives her imposing stature, which transforms her to a kind of mythical figure. The facial expression radiates optimism that instils hope in her guardianship.
The exhibition was officially opened by co-founder of First Floor Gallery Valerie Kabov, who declared that she did not come to be honoured, but to honour the artists.
She commended the initiative for opening new spaces and encouraged more female participation for future endeavours.
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