Thanks to Valerie Kabov, the First Floor gallery Harare and the Mondriaan Fonds, I was able to relive a dream: Back to Zimbabwe.
After spending most of my youth growing up in Southern Africa, it was like going home. When I arrived at the airport, I had to put my hands on the earth and touch Africa. But the home changes and Zimbabwe had changed over the last 15 years since I was there last. The peak hyperinflation in 2008 still leaves the people traumatized. Each telling their storries of paying bills with suitcases of money, or waiting in cues for day on end in front of empty shops. Now a few vegetables in the supermarket will cost 5$US, housing rent $700 http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=Zimbabwe.
In this way Africa has changed; one is no longer rich with $100.
During my short time in Harare I managed to meet up with Thakor Patel whom I met in 1994 and we reconnected on old stories and new. All other acquaintances and friends had either left Zimbabwe or are dead. And despite all the hardships people have faced in their daily lives, what remains the same in Zimbabwe is that people take the day as it comes with a smile.
The immediate impact of my own exhibition in Harare was too far and too alienated to see any result. People are in a basic survival mode and not focussed on viewing art. But the dynamic combination of the workshops about paint colours with the exhibition have left their results. Shortly after my exhibition ended I received news from Valerie that she could see that the artists had changed their approach towards colour. That was great to hear, especially as the artists had researched for the result together.
I frequently follow the news on facebook about the FF Gallery, and admire the programmes that they put up. Notably the educational programmes which initiates an awareness of the Zimbabwean culture looking inwards. During the meeting for the Mosi-oa-Tunya Biennial the director of the National Gallery Zimbabwe Mrs. Doreen Sibanda asked rhetorically why the international airport in Atlanta can display such fine Zimbabwean sculptures and our own government can’t do the same in our own airport? Illustrating the need for cultural awareness across all levels.
I hope to return one day and share more of my practical knowledge and to regain a foot hold into a humble way of live. This has been a most memorable trip.