Maseko's exhibition retraces post-election violence

BULAWAYO - Controversial visual artiste Owen Maseko is back with another insightful exhibition and installation that is timely set on the just-ended disputed July 30 elections.

Interestingly, the exhibition titled “Nyawo Ngibeletha (my foot carry me)” zooms into the recent shootings by the army which left six people dead in Harare.

Bowing to pressure from the international community, President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently appointed a seven member Commission of Inquiry led by former South African president Kgalema Montlante to get to the bottom of the matter.

However, for Maseko, the shootings and other incidents that happened around the elections are a sad development similar to the Gukurahundi atrocities that he says cannot go unchallenged.

Using his skill of imagination and undisputed ingenuity accompanied with a rare bout of courage, Maseko believes his watchdog role on the authorities is part of his art life.

Having been arrested and dragged to court, harassed by State security agents over his banned Gukurahundi exhibition, his spirit is robust and cannot be cowed into submission.

“My paintings are not personal or targeted at anyone but will always be about the human rights violation regardless of who commits them,” Maseko told Southern News.

In one of the more than 10 fairly huge paintings, titled “Ngabantwana bakabani (whose children)” a kneeling armed soldier is seen spraying bullets indiscriminately on a fleeing crowd.

Other intriguing titles include “Lost super”, “Komnyamu’bambile (total darkness)” and “Khanda khulu, mlolo omkhulu (big headed, loud mouth)”.

Some of the paintings are two-and-a-half metres by one-and-a-half metres while others are life size human installations.

On the “Khandakhulu mlomo’mkhulu” painting Maseko depicts politicians who come through to the people making huge promises during campaigns and giving out gifts and food after which they disappear till the next election.

On “Lost super”, the painting depicts celebrations of a stolen election at the expense of people who have voted and the whole rigging process. This shows politicians surrounded by ballot boxes and having a cup of tea, dripping of blood,” he said.

Not to be left out was the Constitutional Court scenario which is aptly captured under the title “Komnyamu’bambile”.

“This depicts a Con-Court scenario where everything is being dramatised, making people believe that there is democracy as we all wait for the obvious results that will never be in favour of opposition parties or a simple voter on the street,” he said.

Remarkably, the White City bomb incident is also captured in the exhibition, where the artiste for the first time displays his artistry is drawing Mnangagwa’s face and how he narrowly escaped the bombing incident.

Speaking about the title of the whole exhibition “Nyawo Ngibeletha”, Maseko said: “This basically means running away from the situation quite fast because you are under pressure or under attack.

“This exhibition comprises of more than 10 paintings and installations which is basically about the most recent elections where unfortunately Zanu PF won and the court sessions and the shootings that happened in Harare and everything that happened during the just-ended elections is actually presented in this particular presentation.

“I am actually inspired by what is happening around me, I work more as a mirror of the society where everything I see around me comes out in the form of paintings or sculptures or installations or the art that I do every day,” Maseko said.

The artist doesn’t see any difference between the Mnangagwa-led government and that of his predecessor Robert Mugabe with regard to the crackdown of dissenting voices.

“To be honest, I don’t believe that there is any change in the first place from the Robert Mugabe regime. Mnangagwa comes from that regime and will continue with the legacy.

“If you look at the exhibition that was banned on Gukurahundi, Mnangagwa was also actively part of it. I am very confident that my work will remain banned as long as the attitude of this government against those opposed to their views remains the same.”

Maseko added: “For me it’s about what I see around me and challenging the perpetrators as it were in the violence that recently happened. So it’s no different from the Gukurahundi atrocities. It’s a government that we cannot trust.”

Asked about how he is going to exhibit his works considering that the Bulawayo Art Gallery has almost been turned into a no-go area, Maseko said he has other ideas.

“My first exhibition space is my studio or rather my home, my house is more like a gallery. Then later flight it online and considering that not many people are interested in working with me I might possibly get a gallery space that is not my home, it could be here in Zimbabwe, it could be outside the country. What comes first is okay with me.”

He added: “As visual artists we get money from selling original pieces, putting my work online means I can reach out to audiences in their larger numbers in the comfort of their homes.”

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