For an art opening and reception, Sanborn pizza restaurant /art gallery in down town Harare was the place to be in 1992. My students at the BAT visual workshop would describe the pizza slices in mouth watering detail when we were discussing the ins and outs of the 4 galleries of the city. The down side of the gallery was that they took 70% commission and the exhibiting artists had to pay for the pizza’s.
The restaurant/gallery no longer exists. But that is not my concern. What happened to Stanley, Shepherd, Janis, Cosmos, Granite, Tendayi and the other young students of the BAT? For some the lights went out. The others? What happened to their call to be an artist? The questions about life that they wanted answered when they started their exploration with 10.000 hours of drawing, paintings, sculpting and discussions. Each artist searching for their personal fulcrum and a lever to pivot and change their position of the world. I believe a young artist does not last long after the initial twenty thousand hours before the mundane duties of life start eating away at the core of the artist and the need is not met by fast success. For the young people of Zimbabwe I found this even more apparent. Having strict social rules towards the family, the success goes towards duties such as putting younger siblings and cousins through school. Helping the uncle and the aunts in financial difficulties. You can understand that for the girls it is even harder to survive, their men making hard demands.
In the 55. Exposizione Internationale d’Arte, Zimbabwe presents the works of 5 artists. Notably the works of Portia Zvavahera and Virginia Chihota are remarkable, feeling that their artistic path is the most fragile of the 5 artists.
We used to laugh, to be a successfully economically viable artists attractive to investors, you have to be white, male and from the west. So by statistics alone Portia’s and Virginia’s artworks can not be considered as a viable investment. For this reason alone it is for us viewers a rare and special opportunity to witness the works of these young artists. In years to come we can look back at the catalogue and say, this is the work of Portia, 28 years old and her visions of religious beliefs.
THUMBS UP for Doreen Sibanda and Raphael Chikukwa from the national Gallery of Zimbabwe who choose the five artists.