Artists, National Art Gallery cross swords

National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) in Bulawayo

THE National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) in Bulawayo’s regional director Silenkosi Moyo is at loggerheads with visual artists who are housed at the gallery located in the city centre.

The newly appointed director has been labelled a “dictator” after hiking rentals by 100% at a time the arts industry has been crippled by the ever-biting economy.

Moyo was appointed regional director after Butholezwe Kgosi Nyathi stepped down two years ago.

Nyathi spearheaded the rejuvenation of the gallery, which included the renovations of the home of arts which had looked a pale shadow of its former self.

It’s reported that since 2021, each visual artist who operates from the gallery paid US $25 per month for studio rentals; effective August 2022 rentals were hiked to US$40.

Some of the visual artists who spoke to the Standard Style said that the Bulawayo visual sector has been in upheaval recently with several changes that have taken place over the course of the last 12 months directly impacting on working practices.

Visual artist and traveller Philip Butler said resident artists have been leaving the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) in Bulawayo after an increase in rentals.

“They (artists) are not happy with the treatment they have been receiving,” Butler said.

“One of the artists was left frustrated and disappointed when he returned from a short Christmas break only to find his working space occupied by someone else.

“Other established resident artists who have worked from the gallery for several years were denied the continued use of their studios for no reason.”

Visual artist Omega Masuku said the Gallery had been transformed from resident artist setup to tenants.

“The gallery has received a very low number of visitors and extremely low circulation of money,” Masuku said.

“The director is a dictator and her rule is absolute monopoly on views and ideas.

“The place does not promote upcoming talent as money is the fundamental focus of the new director.

“We usually apply for residence at the gallery through emails, this time around all female artists were rejected and chased out without a notice.”

Another visual artist who preferred anonymity bemoaned the ill-treatment he received from the new director after finding his work space occupied by someone else.

“Things are getting bad at the gallery, the leader has rather become a boss,” he said.

“Looking at the future of artists, it is doomed as they have a boss who is clueless and running clueless projects which don't appeal to the industry especially Bulawayo.”

However, Moyo defended the increase of rentals at the institution.

“The increase of rentals was for the institution to be able to manage the maintenance of the building and keep operations going,” Moyo said.

“Rentals also contribute to the income of the gallery to make sure that it is maintained and services are rendered.”

NGZ assistant curator for Bulawayo Doris Kamupira said the curators’ office is always open to artists and they cannot function without the artists.

“The door is always open for the curator and the artists to share information within that office and we are trying by all means to be able to accommodate almost all artists who are in Bulawayo including those in areas which are far from the Metropolitan, like those in Gwanda, Beitbridge, and Plumtree; they also long to have exposure to the Gallery and have the experience of working with professional artists."


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