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

HIFA 2014 day 1

writing, Zimbabwe

HIFA is a 6-day  festival of popular culture in Harare. The first floor gallery of Harare recommended I should come to see the festival and participate in the group exhibition: Harare No Limits!

Harare’s contemporary artists create their vision of the city and its people.

HIFA week

The festival was kicked off in the national gardens behind the National gallery on Tuesday night by an opening event with dance and music, followed up by drinks and finger-food at the ABC Bank director’s tent. But before the drinks were served, the elite guests and special stake holders were assured that their bank accounts would soon be accessible after a technical hitch. Yet rumour has it that selected managers have had access to large loans that they are failing to repay resulting in the freezing of all banks transactions. This is Africa.



The next morning I returned to the National Gallery to unofficially attend the panel discussion the ‘wind of change: the new interest in contemporary art’. The panel would discuss how the global art market would focus its attention on Africa the way it had zoomed in on Chinese art less than a decade ago.
However I was ushered into the wrong room, and participated in a new exciting discussion….



Dudziro, Zimbabwe in the Venice Bienalle 2013


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.



My own version of Religion In Harare. In 1994 it was sent down from the National Gallery of Zimbabwe as not religious themes would be displayed.

Presentation Polygone Mesh in Harare

writing, Zimbabwe

At 17:10 we started the presentation. In true Zimbabwean style I was introduced by a poet that told the modest gathering about my life and achievement. Mbiza Chrasha had taken the highlights out of my blog and CV and made a compelling story, stressing to the audience that education never stops for the persevering artist. Then it was my turn which I will present in point form.

Number and figures

We should level. From the art works that I make, I can not make a living. I work 20 hours as a social welfare worker and teach to make ends meet.  My income is spend on payments for food, housing, and health, little is left at the end of the month.

The exhibition and observations

For me an exhibition is an event where I can share my visions with others and give them something to think about , but foremost it is an event where I can confirm my own existence. The reactions from the audience is a mirror to see where I stand. It is almost like a laboratory experiment, knowing the question and testing the answers. Conditions have to be right for the experiment and I made fairly good preparations.

In the week that my exhibition was open, I noticed that only 5 people took the time to look at the works. Otherwise the First floor gallery was buzzing with creative people doing other things. What was going on? Was it too much like an office, lounge,  wrong setting?

Conclusion: I met many artists in the last few weeks, and in a  setting of the survival of the fittest, my work seemed only accessible to those who had trained themselves to look.

Older works

…photographs of my older works projected with the beamer….

1994 Harare, Zimbabwe, oil on canvas K_Van

1994 Harare, Zimbabwe, oil on canvas K_Van

New ways of working together and showing work

In 2008 Sofia Kapnissi(read more) and myself  organised the Mama’s arts exhibition.
We had been working together for years, with many different artists and we felt we should do something with textile art from the point of view of the artist. Through an open call for artists on the internet we collected many proposals and chose those works showing visual arts. This resulted in an outstanding exhibition. We brought together works and artists that were ready to be challenged and inspired by each other.

mama’s arts catalogue e-version mama's arts opening

The exhibition was held in an old pharmacy and old butchery at the outskirts of The Hague.
The artists (from all over the world) provided the transportation of the art works. We made an e-catalogue that could be printed. We did not get funding, but spent $100 on promotional cards and $50 for food and drinks during the opening). It took us a year to set it up and follow through.

It is projects like these that set the right settings for an event where the artist can share visions with each other (others may follow).

My works 3D Polygone

for this part I refer you to my article straight-lines-and-curved-lines


what do the objects represent, why do you paint them?  The objects are physical, mass, weight, size and time. They are earthly and emotionless, they have nothing to say. This is different to my previous work like ”Jack leaves with thoughts of revenge”. But I enjoy the silence of the objects. It allows my mind to be quite and my emotions go into the way I apply the paints and the colours. Once they are finished I love to look at them, each time I walk past them the angle changes and the object changes. Even the morning or afternoon light makes the object seem to float more or  it seems to come out of the wall.

where can we get the software to make 3D drawings: Sketchup and Blender are open source packages

18:30, it was time for the presentation of the IIFF 2012 closing and awards ceremony at the Book Cafe, Samora Machel with free food and drinks. We closed shop and moved on.

I would like to thank all the people that attended the talk for their time and interest in my art and my thoughts. After the talk I received questions and compliments about the works. Especially Mama’s arts textile art triggered the people.

Saturday: the exhibition gets a new venue

Polygone Mesh in Harare

exhibitions, Zimbabwe
For those that are too far from Harare centre, I have made some photographs of the exhibition in the First Floor Gallery of Harare. The exhibition does not have titles, price-lists or name tags to disturb the visitor from enjoying the art.(true Gaidaro style)
K_Van, visual artist from the Netherlands shows his new paintings in
the First floor gallery Harare. It seems as if the objects in the paintings come out of the wall. Bulky, angular and industrial forms painted in tones and hues of green. “I break objects down with 3D design programs,” explains the artist, “Once I have a grid, I transfer the lines onto a canvas, tracing each vector using needle and thread.” The artist then paints the grids using oil paints in different layers and tones of colour. K_Van is not a new to Harare, he has exhibited here before in 1994. ‘My previous visit greatly influenced my work, this is the importance of cultural dialogue. When I returned home my vision had changed and I started to work  with a greater diversity of materials. Now that I am back, I realise that the Zimbabwean influence might have been deeper. Visiting the National Gallery of Zimbabwe again I looked at the strong angular lines in Nicholas Mukomberanwa’s sculptures. These lines must inspire many artists and I feel that through the years they have subconsciously influenced my work.

K_Van’s work can be seen at the First floor gallery Harare.
George Silundika ave 24 Mercury house from 10:30-17:00 or by appointment.

The exhibition will run until the 1st of December 2012 with a presentation at 17:00

a Nicholas Mukomberanwa’s sculpture

Mixing colours with artist’s own made low budget PVA paint.


Yesterday we made low budget PVA paint. Today we are going to see how well the colours stand when we start mixing them together.
We will also make a colour diagram of the PVA and oil colours.  I hope that teachers and artists will follow the workshop and discover how you can also make your own paints.

Ground rules of each workshop[see previous post]

Artists gossip round

After yesterdays workshop Moffat, Gersham, Mavis, Wycliffe, Joe, Kres ,Sky and K_
went to the opening at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. Nicholas Mukomberanwa (1940 – 12 November 2002).  We discussed who we met and what we saw.

Introduction to making mixing colours

Paint is made out of pigment and a binder (medium) . We can mix magenta, cyan, yellow and black to make practically any colour (offset CMYK printing). If you want to have a more varied and consistent pallet you will use a wider range of pigments.

Make a mind map: 5 min
name the pigments that you know.

output cadmium orange, cadmium red, carmine, cobalt violet, ultra marine blue, phthalo turquoise…

results: In the shops of Harare there is a limited overlapping colour range available (oils and acrylics). We do not need all of them, rather choose your colours with care.

Mixing our own paints: 60 min
Yesterday we made our own paints. Today we are going to test them and see if we can produce the colour wheel. Mix glue, pigment and water.

output: we mixed the 3 pigments with glue and water and made our colour wheels

discussing our results: 20 min

  • The PVA paint did very well with the warm colours. The purple was very difficult to control. Even adding a little white did not help. We had red,

conclusions: if we want to make full use of the home made paint, it would be good to buy a magenta pigment or invest in a purple acrylic.

Part 2
Mixing oils
:60 min

To get a feel for the colours we are going to make colour tones. By adding white or black we want to experiment to see when a colour ‘breaks apart’. For instance adding a little black to yellow will quickly turn the yellow into a sickly green.

testing out the oil colours

testing out the colours, note adding white to purple will break the colour, but purple can take black. On the other hand yellow can not take black very well, but does better with white.

output: we made our colour fields, carefully noting the colours that appeal to us and which ones do not work

results:  with the colour chart that we have made today, it is easy to recall the colours that we can make ourselves. In this way you can divert away from the limited preprocessed colours. When It will also make it easier to distinguish the warmer colours and cooler colours. This is important when we want to get depth into the painting. Warm colours for the foreground, cool colours for the back.
note: In Harare you can buy W&N oil paints. The cheaper Chinese brand in 170ml are just fine.

next: painting Gaidaro the otherself style with our own made paints

workshop making your own paints


In this workshop we are going to be making and testing artists’ low budget PVA paint. The write-up about this project includes the results of the artists from the First Floor gallery of Harare. I hope that teachers and artists will follow the workshop and discover how you can also make your own paints.

Moffat, Gersham, Mavis, Wycliffe, Joe, Kres and Sky

Participants 6-30

Ground rules of each workshop

  1. respect 4 all, all 4 one  (confidentiality: personal issues discussed in the group remain in the group)
  2. For each exercise there is a set time, stick to it (you will be told how much time you have and how much time is left to round off your task)
  3. There is a general silence agreement, when the instructor asks for general silence, be silent.
  4. The participants will be split up into groups of 3-4. Participants may get a role in their group to assist with materials or tasks.

Artists gossip round

Each person tells what they know about  one other participant.
In this way we know how others see us.
(If participants do not know one another, do a speed-date session)
results: we learned what the others make, what there themes are, where they get support from and inspiration.

Introduction to making paint

Paint is made out of pigment (powder) and a glue (medium) that holds it together.

Make a mind map: 5 min
name pigments and different types of mediums

output oxide, red clay, ultra marine, cadmium yellow, iron oxide….
linseed oil, wood glue, Arabic gum…
note: Dye molecules are much smaller than pigment particles and are much more vulnerable to light.

results:the pigment is the colour, the medium holds the pigment together. Some glues dissolve in water like Arabic gum for water colours.

with thanks to

Mixing glue and powder: 45 min

We found several powder paints for sale in Harare centre, 200gr 3$US , wood glue 1kg for 5 $US. We bought white, red, cyan, yellow and oxide black (the cheapest).

Mix the powder with the glue and add a little water. Find out what results this gives.

output: we mixed all the powders and tested them. We also mixed the pigments with linseed oil. Pigment with oil paint, pigment with acrylic emulsion.

results: 20 min

  • PVA being a cheaper type of binder than acrylic medium dries up slightly white, leaving dark blue with a slightly milky layer.
  • The white was difficult to mix with the glue, it became lumpy. We have to find a better way to mix.
  • Mixing powders with oil was difficult. Too little oil, resulted in a lumpy mess, too much oil resulted in a lean paint.
  • Raw linseed oil resulted in a darker yellow.
  • Mixing powder with oil paint gave good result. This could be used full for extending the oil paint.
  • the Acrylic emulsion was of such poor quality that we abandoned using it.

Today’s conclusions: 10 min
It is possible to make a study quality paint from pigments and PVA glue. Adding a little water makes the paint flow better. We found that our paint dries fast, so mind how much paint you make. PVA glue can also be added to tempera paint. This will enable the artist to paint layer over dry layer like acrylic paint.

We also found out that oil paints can be bought in Zimbabwe, they go for 10$ US for 170ml but buy the W&N Chinese brand (the W&N European will cost 3 times more).
[note:  W&N 200ml in Europe is 12 Euro.]

next: mixing the colours


writing, Zimbabwe

mondriaan fondsIn April I had met Valerie Kabov during the Art & Dialogue course in Paris. I had lived in  Harare in 1994, she is living in Harare now and runs the First floor gallery space in Harare. In May we met again, briefly, in Amsterdam, to discuss an exhibition. Valerie had already made contacts with the Mondriaan foundation in Amsterdam for funding.

Harare, the rain season has started, I had arrived the night before. During my first walk in the city my eyes would well op with tears. 18 years is a long time to be away, and my sight triggered by so many memories left my brain scrambling to find the right emotions. It is like a dream and not. The past firmly rooted in my memories has to come to terms. The streets and buildings have changed. The songs of the birds seem to be the same. The cell phones and the air time is new. The smell of wax on the floor is old, the cream doughnuts  seem to be larger. The street boys that were 10 years old should now be 28.

Painter dwells on cross-cultural virtues, Zimbabwee

exhibitions, Zimbabwe

K_Van travels back to Zimbabwe

Painter dwells on cross-cultural virtues
Martin Chemhere

THIS is the poetic side of K_Van a young Dutch painter whose recent exhibition of impressions of daily life in Southern Africa ran for a week in John Boyne Gallery *in Harare. A culmination of an ongoing cultural research. The exhibition features drawings, paintings and graphical work. Highlighting cross-cultural virtues as experienced by the artists.

SUNDAY TIMES MARCH 6, 1994  ’published without fear or favour” ‘

[John Boyne Gallery was a galley space sponsored by a bank in Harare. For a relatively low rent artists could use it to exhibit their works. The gallery no longer exists.]

Unlike my travels in 1994, I will be presenting paintings that where made in the Netherlands in 2012. I am curious about the reactions that I will get. Paintings from 1994 like ‘Aids and incest’ were not easily accessible.  What will the polygones do?