‘Vestiges of Colonialism’: Takadiwa’s larger-than-life exhibition opens

A huge crowd attended the opening of the "Vestiges of Colonialism" exhibition at the NGZ in Harare last Thursday.

Internationally-acclaimed soft sculpture artist Moffat Takadiwa’s ground-breaking exhibition titled Vestiges of Colonialism opened to the public last Thursday at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) in what could be the most significant solo exhibitionto be hosted by the public gallery.

The exhibition is about the urgent need to eliminate the remnants of colonialism in Africa and cure the continent from its colonial hangover. From afar, his compositions resemble tapestries made of cotton or wool. On closer inspection, however, their materials reveal themselves.

The response to the exhibition opening was phenomenal. A number of people across the race, age and gender divide witnessed the opening, both in person and online.

In attendance were foreign diplomats, including French ambassador, Laurent Chevallier, the Elanie M. French (United States), government officials, NGZ board chair retired Justice Maphios Cheda and guest of honour author and academic Dr Ignatius Mabasa.

One of the five giant installations,The Walk of Shame, features hundreds of colourfultoothbrush handles that have been artfully dispersed throughout a framed area of the gallery floor. Takadiwa progressively expanded the idea into an installation after observing people walking on toothbrush handles that he had been collecting and dumping on the floor at his studio in Mbare over a period of five years. He gained another perspective of the concept after visiting the star-embedded sidewalks at Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.

In this piece, Moffat pokes holes in Hollywood glamour and insteadimagines the extent of human consumerism. The artist says humanity has pushed the world to near extinction due to “our daily habits in our struggle to shine, to be superstars, to look good and smell good, we are also harming our environment in the process”.

Bhiro neBepa (pen and paper) is an imposing artwork crafted using computer keys, pen refills and toothbrush bristles. Like in most of his artworks he borrows from the weaving craft of artefacts and material culture of the Kore Kore people of northwest Zimbabwe.

Covo Rugare, a common vegetable in Zimbabwe, serves as the inspiration for the plant installation titled Rugare Kwamuri. 14 partially burnt and deformed drawers are filled with native soil and used to grow the vegetables. The burning of the colonial furniture and planting of Covo Rugare symbolises the destruction of colonial order and the establishment of fresh roots in its place.

Takadiwa creates another installation that represents the colonial administrative context in Sando Dzako (an urban greeting and expression of respect). The artwork features a dining table with a European design that, like the drawers in Rugare Kwamuri, is partially burnt. The artist said that the hundreds of spiky nails on it are references to his salute and tribute to those who are seated beneath the table as well as to those whowere notprivileged to eat at the top of the table.

Mudiwa’s Kitchen is title after his daughter, it is made out of plastered cardboard boxes and vinyl plates. In the politically charged composition Mushonga weZinho, corruption is viewed as the decay of a tooth that needs to be extracted. The three sculptures, hanging from the gallery roof, are made from discarded toothpaste tubes woven into giant basket-like structures.

A magnetic tape installation titled The Same Old Song which the audience managed to engage with,was created using tape ribbons gathered from numerous cassettes. The soft loosely hanging ribbons give one the feeling that they are ensnared in a large spider web.

According to the artist, The Same Old Song, is that song that has trapped us for ages. It is the same perpetuation of colonial-made laws.

In Maruva Enyika, another show that uses partially burnt colonial administrative furniture as a medium, the illusions of foreign aid are depicted as thorny roses. The roses are each set on top of the desks in little, cotton-filled medicine vials.

The artwork on display discusses Zimbabwe's history as well as the history of other colonised countries.

Mabasa said artists can contribute to national and international issues such as de-coloniality.

Mpfunya said:“What Moffat is commenting on is how art can engage society with extremely painful historical injustices and occurrences that need to be acknowledged and dealt with in a sort of cathartic way.”

A paper presentation in support of the exhibition concept titled Recovering Lost African History and Knowledge: A Case of the Milky Way Eponyms in the Shona Language has been planned for April 27.

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