Berlin 1989

exhibitions, writing

1 January 1990, Berlin

Somewhere near Hanover, I stood at a petrol-station, hitch-hiking, my cardboard sign reading ‘BERLIN’. To be more precise, Sunday the 31 of December 1989 . Strangely, it had been the bright idea of my mother to send me to Berlin for New Year’s eve. She gave me money for the return fair by train, I would hitch a ride from the Netherlands to the city that had captured our imagination when the Iron wall cracked a month earlier.
A family car drove up to the station, stopped, the doors opened. A woman behind the steering wheel, a basket with drinking cups, sandwiches, towels spread out on the passenger seat next to her, a man holding a baby swaddled in a blanket sat in the back seat. They hastily filled up the petrol tank, paid and reorganised themselves in a calculated nervous manner ensuring their baby would not be disturbed. The woman called to me, ‘do you have a driving license?’.
Before I could even show my license, she asked if I could drive them to Berlin.

1 January 1990, Berlin, life as normal

My small bag containing a sleeping bag, my 35mm camera, a water proof liner and dried fruits were put in the boot. We shifted seats, the man came to sit next to me, the woman and baby moved to the back seat to nurse. And I set the car into motion towards Berlin with the young parents and their baby. At checkpoint Alpha, the Helmstedt-Marienborn station some 170km from Berlin I gave our passports to the guards for inspection and then drove the last hours on the corridor like autobahn, the grey DDR on either side. At each bridge that we passed under we were greeted by waving children and adults in the fading light. The woman remarked, ‘a few months ago they would be taken to jail for waving at us.’ We followed the road to Berlin that had changed its way.
Close to the Großer Tiergarten of Berlin I stopped the car, I thanked my family for the lift and they thanked me for the drive, ending a most remarkable exchange of trust.


Summarizing the events in Harare

exhibitions, writing, Zimbabwe


solar The airport  being the obvious place where airplanes land and take off, is also an important physical location where some serious thinking is done. It marks a moment when I project my self into the future, and on a returning journey I spend time reliving and summarizing the events during my travels. This time after my exhibition in Harare with rotating objects and drawings I tried to question myself with 6 key evaluation questions such as:
”What art processes were planned and what was actually put in place for the project?….”, but found the answers something short sighted and for the economist. So I page through notes and recall conversations.
The most remarkable moment of the exhibition would have to be that the audience  interacted with the artwork by means of a torch, light, solar panels and an electrical motor turning the objects. During the opening for example, people took their time to go from object to object and examine the reaction that the light had on the artworks. In fact what they were doing was examining the effects that the light had on the surface of the object, and this is precisely how I question and observe the small art works.  How does the light reflect, what texture does it reveal, what shadows does it cast, what tonal difference in the shadows tell me that the object is three dimensional and finally if I turn the beam of light to an other angle what happens to the image and why? This information I use as an artist to make painting or more sketches. But to come back to the opening, I felt that the audience was captivated, they talked about the objects, the mechanism, the show.

‘So what comes first, the object or the drawing, or the painting?’, guests would ask.
None, I would answer. The exhibition shows the precise evolving process of an artist. The origins of the idea is so far and faint in the past that they no longer have any influence to the present physical form, be it the drawings, paintings or objects. By observing, unfolding and questioning these three forms,  I answer with new artworks, that in turn will be observed and questioned again forming a continuous evolving spiral. [action reaction]

‘What are they? What does it symbolize?’ Each person will see what it is, what it symbolizes and how much power it has. Option, a sculptor tells me how ”the bull” triggered his youth memories. One of the objects, a small bull (approximately 2cm high)  made of dark brown earthenware clay, glued on the inclination of a triangular piece of wood, spins in the light. ‘When I was living in the rural area,’ Option tells me with excitement, ‘with my parents and grandparents on a small farm, we had a big black bull. It was a kind of crazy bull and on some occasions the bull would escape from its pen.  We would always find the beast on top of a hill, feet locked like a mountain goat on the steep rocks and head pointing proudly up, nostrils flared and grunting at the far horizon.’  Later Option wrote in my guest book ”I like that BULL!!”

The airplane took me from Harare to Lusaka and in the early hours of the morning we landed in Dubai international airport where I would catch my connecting flight to Amsterdam. Having some time on my hands, a twenty dollar bill and a wish for a cup of coffee I set off to find one of the coffee chains. When the lady at the counter saw the dollar bill, she immediately said  she could not take it, ”It’s too old”.
‘Yeah but’, I protested, ‘I’ve been using dollar bills like this for weeks, dollars can’t get old; it’s money.’
The next place told me my money was too dirty, and they would also not accept it. This encounter put a whole new spin on money laundering. However this left me without a coffee, a worthless 20 dollar bill and I felt like a sitting duck, a target for unscrupulous bank CEOs. It made me link the arts and money, how some art was worth money and other art works as worthless as my dirty money. And yet for the artist, each art piece that is expressed in physical form is a step in the artist’s personal development and so his culture. At the next coffee place I ordered an expensive cappuccino from Harkaman hiding my old and dirty money until Florence proceeded to whizz the machines. Ha! My money was no longer old nor soiled, because Harkaman saw the agreement between himself, the cappuccino and me. [Back in the game].

Bringing art works to Zimbabwe for an exhibition  is an exceptional process. Not so much the logistics which consists of making the art works look worthless in a messy suitcase, and thus avoid having to pay import taxes. But an exceptional reversal process as art flows out of the country not in. I have had three solo exhibitions in Harare starting in 1994, 2012 and now 2014 and each time I bring something, it surprises to the brink of ungraspable. Not because the work is indecipherable, rather there are hardly any international exhibitions let alone African art exchanges. In fact there is not much of an contemporary art interest or market amongst the local population, the players are few and the road to any form of success (economical or spiritual) is to Europe or North America. This causes a general unease in the arts, besides the education system is not strong enough to educate about contemporary African art. As the local artists tell me all the ‘important’ art has been sold over eagerly to collectors outside of Africa and what cultural documentation remains is hardly contemporary and is written by former colonists three decades ago. Needless to say there is great awareness amongst artists to educate their fellow man, they know, road is long.

moon northern hemisphere

moon southern hemisphere

In Zimbabwe the moon is upside down. After a few days in Harare you change your point of view, and some time later you see it like all people living in Zimbabwe, bright and surrounded by dozens of nebulae and other star clusters. The way I observed the art and the maker also changes with time. I have noticed that art is made in a different way. One way that European artists may start making their art work is from the art supplies and tools at hand (canvas, paint and brushes). In Zimbabwe I found that the artists starts from a different point. There is hardly any art material to work with.  Creative survivalist know the challenge ”How to open a can without a can opener”. Creative kids know what to do when there is no TV and they have gnawed through their boredom. So the starting point of the artist is from nothing, and that makes the work so very challenging. It is almost like a training, a school of thought, a style like minimalism, but then the ”starting from nothing” style. The Zimbabwean artist starts painting with nothing, then finds household paint, continues to paints mixing colours with offset printers ink, or starts with yellow and finding other colours in the form of plastic bottle tops, sweet wrappers or broken shoes. Or consider this simplification; an artist drawing a silhouette of a rabbit, in Africa they may draw the abstract forms from the space around the rabbit (from nothing), and not from the ears or eyes or fur. When I look at their work the opposite happens, I first see the bottle tops, the electronic print plates, the bicycle pedal and then as if by magic, I see the creation.

analyzing the inside shapes, or look at the outside shapes

analyzing the inside shapes, or look at the outside shapes

During last  three days in Harare I freed myself up from the exhibition to spend some time in the botanical gardens and to explore the clouds using a video camera. The clouds form low and rapid in the skies after eleven o’clock in the morning. By leaving the camera on the ground and pointing up towards the sky I recording five minutes at the time. Playing the video fast forward made me realize that the rolling motion of the clouds was similar to the the rotating objects. It is something I want to work with.

But what impact did your art work have?
In 1999 I left the USA after doing a collection of paintings on shadows of basket ballplayers and hotel paintings in Mexico. I thought they had little impact on any one but my self, but I was wrong, Kelsay Myers wrote in 2013:
“But this one looks like spirits,” I said, and it did. What I didn’t say was that the spirits made me want to write. Their shapes and colors haunted me. The sky captured my imagination.”

A N    E M P H A S I S   O N   R E A L I T Y


next: 3rd Ruhr Biennial – Townshipwise different 2015

Returning home

writing, Zimbabwe
wooden object

wooden object

A satisfied feeling came over me when I returned home after the exhibition. And so I had to analyze my feelings, and question what was special about this particular presentation. I believe I made people ask questions about their own value, and I too asked this to myself.
It is my 3rd solo exhibition in Harare. The first one in 199r, then 2012 and now in 2014. I, the audience and the artworks have changed.
My first exhibition with more than 50 diverse works produced in less that a year while I stayed in Southern Africa, had prints and paintings commenting on life in southern Africa. Narrative images like ‘Jack leaves with thoughts of revenge’, paintings inspired by social unrest and comic books.
During last three days in Harare I have freed myself up to explore the clouds using a video camera. The clouds form low balloons in the skies after eleven o’clock. Out on the grass, I would point the camera up towards the sky and record five minutes at the time. Replaying the video in FForward mode made me see the familiar rolling motion patterns of the clouds and the rotating objects that was part of the exhibition. This is something that I take with me and needs to be further addressed in the studio.
solarThe rotating objects that I took with me to show are driven by solar motors. When the sunlight fills the exhibition space the solar cells convert the energy and power the tiny motors, making the object turn. It is magical and peaceful. But the opening was during the dark evening and Marcus came with an innovative solution; the torch. So during the opening the audience armed with torches could activate the mechanism and examine the rotating objects with a beam of light and play with the shadows on the backdrop.
During the opening people were absorbed by the objects, studying each one with childlike curiosity, walking from object to object. And then the questions are. What are they? What does it symbolize? And how does it reflect to the observer?

a bull on the hill

Bull on the hill

C tells me how the bull triggered memories of his youth. When living in the rural areas they had a bull. On some occasions the bull would escape from the pen. And they would always find the beast on top of a steep inclining hill looking out over the horizon like a mountain goat.
This (the reflections) is what I take back home with me.

opening evening photos

exhibitions, Zimbabwe

opening First Floor Galley:
Pictures by Kumbulani Zamuchiya

opening first floor gallery

discussing how the light interacts with the surface of the object

photo: Kumbulani Zamuchiya

Interacting with the object using the solar panels to power the rotation of the object.

photo: Kumbulani Zamuchiya

relating to the art works.

photo: Kumbulani Zamuchiya

Observing the objects turn with the power of solar energy

photo: Kumbulani Zamuchiya

K_Van, Valerie Kabov, Marcus Gora and guests

photo: Kumbulani Zamuchiya

During the day the object turn gently, powered by solar enegry

photo: Kumbulani Zamuchiya

Babies, family and friends join the exhibition.

photo: Kumbulani Zamuchiya

Discussion, how the objects might work in Scandinavian. They would turn, then stop in a random position for the winter.

prototype feb 2013

workshop “getting art into schools”


the following notes are for the artists that participated in my workshop “getting art into schools”.  Harare,  8 May

Healthy food posters,
an art project for primary schools

traing session

a look into the future During the morning school assembly the headmaster of the local primary school proudly announces the children’s poster campaign for ‘healthy food’. Thirty-two posters made with black crayons on paper  prominently hang in all the classrooms of the school. Each child that has worked on the artwork for the poster has thought and discussed ‘healthy food’ with their classmates. During the course of the week each class-teacher  will use the ‘healthy food’ poster to talk about healthy food with their class.

Earlier that week a group of artists came to visit the school. Through an active workshop the artists created an awareness of healthy food by telling the children draw and talk as a way to communicate this message. They engaged the children to talk about healthy food in relation to their own health. Each child made a poster using coarse black crayon on paper advocating healthy food and discussed the topic with their peers. We want children to reflect on themselves and on others.

The workshop
During the art workshops in the primary schools, artists will work with several classes to create awareness posters (such as healthy food). They will have approximately 90 minutes per class in which children will make a poster. As an introduction to each lesson the artists will address the class with the awareness theme and allow the children to unfold the theme through a open brainstorm session. After the introduction the artists will focus on the making of the poster. They will not teach children how to draw but rather focus on self-awareness and their own creativity. They do this by asking the children what they think and to use the information that they already know. Paper and crayon (provided by the artists) are handed out and children are given some practical instructions on the making of a poster. The children will have approximately 40 minutes to draw. After the drawing session the artists will ask the children to pair up and tell each other about their posters. Groups of children are then asked to make a very small presentation of the works to the rest of the class. The works  will then be collected and the artists summarise the results of the presentations. After a Q&A the artists will collect all the materials and the posters and go to the next class.

Posters and awareness
The artists may digitize the artworks, and prepare them for display and distribution in the school.


  • Children and teachers are aware that drawing is an important tool of communication.
  • Children witness their own power of self-expression in the drawings.
  • Children are familiar with the sharing of ideas and feelings through art.
  • Adults witness children’s expression through art.


Training of the artists
Giving the right tool to the artists is the key to the success of this project. Teaching and guiding children in the arts takes hours of practice.

During the training each artist presented parts of the workshop to their peers so that we could fine tune their own presentation and work form. In each phase we want to be especially aware of the active participation of the artists and the goals that we have set for ourselves.

This training is set up in 3 phases

  1. Activate the artists through the training workshop.
    Let them practice the workshop with their fellow artists.
    Evaluate and adjust the program
  2. Let the artists try and get results from small local workshops with 15 children
    Evaluate and adjust the program
  3. The artists start the program
    after each school evaluate and adjust the program

Further questions and notes

Summery workshop

  1. Artists and children explore drawing as a means of communication.
  2. Artists and children represent themselves through drawings.
  3. During the workshop artists give direct positive feedback on the drawings made by the children.
  4. Art is collected for further processing.



  • Drawing paper without lines A3
  • Crayons \ (make this ourselves?)

Participation levels

Using the UNICEF ladder of participation this project will be ‘assigned but informed’.

1. The children understand the intentions of the project;
2. They know who made the decisions concerning their involvement and why;
3. They have a meaningful (rather than ‘decorative’) role;
4. They willingly participate with the project after the project was made clear to them.


Evaluate and progress


  1. Was the quality of the artworks good enough for the posters?
  2. Was the message clear to others?
  3. Did each child receive their poster to take home?



  1. Did the workshop start on time?
  2. Could the children come up with ideas about drawing?
  3. Did the children understand what they had to draw, namely themselves?
  4. Could the children work with the material provided?
  5. Could the children talk about their works?
  6. Did they enjoy the activity?
  7. Did the workshop end on time?


Follow up with school

  1. Did the school present the work?
  2. Did the classes take time to look and talk about the work?
  3. Was there any feedback from school?
  4. What did the school think of the project?
  5. Would they like to be involved in future projects?
  6. Would they be will to help with costs?



  1. Are the artists satisfied with the results?
  2. Are the materials enough and good?
  3. Are they getting support from school?
  4. Is there something they can do to improve the project?
  5. Are there more opportunities for the artists to activate themselves with in the schools?
  6. Do they think there is a way to generate finances?
  7. If not how long can the project run?

Opening this afternoon in Harare

exhibitions, writing

at the First Floor Gallery 17:30rotating object

bw_prints_Page_22 bw_prints_Page_21 bw_prints_Page_20 bw_prints_Page_19 bw_prints_Page_18 bw_prints_Page_17 bw_prints_Page_16 bw_prints_Page_15 bw_prints_Page_14 bw_prints_Page_13 bw_prints_Page_12 bw_prints_Page_11 bw_prints_Page_10 bw_prints_Page_09 bw_prints_Page_08 bw_prints_Page_07 bw_prints_Page_06 bw_prints_Page_05 bw_prints_Page_04 bw_prints_Page_03 bw_prints_Page_02 bw_prints_Page_01 bw_prints_Page_32 bw_prints_Page_31 bw_prints_Page_30 bw_prints_Page_29 bw_prints_Page_28 bw_prints_Page_27 bw_prints_Page_26 bw_prints_Page_25 bw_prints_Page_24 bw_prints_Page_23

HIFA 2014 day 5

writing, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has great clouds. Low flying puffs of vapour twisting in the sky. They reach high over the tree tops but are close enough for you to be in contact with them, like messengers from heaven. It is my belief that artists are influenced by their land. Fly over the Spanish landscape and you see the rugged canvas of the Spanish painter. The Dutch painter has the ordered lines. Of course I am generalizing, but a sky filled with endless blobs of beautiful clouds must have some impact on the people.clouds in Zimbabwe

HIFA 2014 day 5

In the HIFA green pavilion, reserved for the artists (as in musician artist?) we sat and compared football management with the arts market. All the Zimbabwean contemporary artists know someone personally that has exhibited at the Venice Art Biennale. Meaning that there are many Zimbabwean contemporary artists who have exhibited in Venice, or there are few contemporary Zimbabwean  artists that everyone knows. Being so close to the grand art market unsettles the  artists, as would happen if a hand full of kids would be sent to Rio to play in the world cup football. My position is detached from the art market, although I must confess, when living in Brussels, we were neighbours with Angel Vergara the artist who represented the French Community of Belgium at the 54th Venice Biennale. But when we spoke, it was never about art nor football.


Take my money because it is dirty.

I am not religious bu I like the feeling.

I am not religious but I like the feeling.

Three different coffee  places in Dubai international airport refused to take my twenty dollar bill.
‘It’s too old.’,  they would say.
‘Yeah, but’, I argue in vain, ‘twenty dollar is twenty dollars, it can’t just get old.’
It was not just old, it was dirty and grimed with an immense Zimbabwean history. It had probably been circulating for years paying wages, school fees, folded up in pockets and brassieres, passed from hand to hand, stored and rested in tin cans and exchanged for services, food and beer. In God we trust and God has seen .
I walked to the next shop, and ordered this time an expensive cappuccino from Harkaman and Florence and waited for the thing to be made. And when it stood there the plastified paper cup with its black hat on the counter, the ready made consumable, I handed over the token.  The dirty money, no longer old, soiled but wanted. I took the cup and the change in the form of brand new crisp dollar bills.
‘Money laundering’, I thought and smiled.


HIFA 2014 day 4

writing, Zimbabwe

Has any one written a good book about Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation (10,000,000%) from 1998-2009. Today when I speak to people they are still in shock. Pensions disappeared, savings lost, mortgages exploded and property reclaimed. Shop shelves empty. People drove for hours to neighbouring countries to buy food for family and friends. Those that did not have cars camped in front of shops and ATMs hoping for good news. If you had $10 US you could fly with Air Zimbabwe to China and back using the local exchange rate? A book like this would go down as fiction, it is beyond the logic of mankind.

At this time it is good to mention AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers link
Ivor Hartmann, editor says ”it enables African writers to envision a future from our African perspective.” And I would like to add it enables writers to tell their stories of unimaginable truths.




HIFA 2014 day 4
At the national galley, Calvin Dondo presents his book with
“Hodhii Zimbabwe. This book is a knock on the door of a stone house, a calling to open up and discover its inner mirror, an urge to show itself to the world and find more authentic rhetoric”

[personal note: is African art about problem solving using restriction methods?]


HIFA 2014 day 3

Utsi Mutsi, writing, Zimbabwe

A month ago while preparing for a solo show in Harare, I was finishing off one of the sculptures. My chisel slipped off the wood and dug deep into my little finger. In the ER they told me I cut my tendon. The hospital staff on hearing I was an artist arranged the best hand and wrist surgeon in Holland to sew the two strands of tendon back together. The recovery will be long.

injured, cintiq digital drawing tabletMy 3d work clearly stopped, but with one hand I could still draw the Utsi Mutsies (that is what my son Mickey and I call these imaginary creations). I used a Cintiq digital drawing tablet drawing directly on the screen and so creating the prints for the show.

HIFA Day 3

In the morning I go to the first floor gallery,  known for its innovative programming, to hang up 2 rotating objects and 2 drawings. Yutaka Hirose and Yuki Kamiya come to visit the galley and Yutaka takes my photograph using a very large format camera for his 100s Zimbabwe project.

At 17:00 the show opens with a good crowd of people

detail of Terrence Musekiwa’s sculpture ‘fruit tree’

one-piece cold formed body featuring a black oxide finish

K_Van: one-piece cold formed body featuring a black oxide finish