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Four Zim Artists Commissioned for the 59th International Art Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia

The Venice Biennale is one of the most important events in the art world.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Hon. Kirsty Coventry last week announced at a Press Briefing held at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare that Ronald Muchatuta, Kresiah Mukwazhi, Terrence Musekiwa and Wallen Mapondera have been commissioned to represent the Southern African nation at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.

The Venice Biennale is one of the most important events in the art world. It happens every two years and is an occasion with a longstanding history and a proven quality of visual artworks that walk hand-in-hand with their time.

“These men and woman made an impact in Global Art Circles by navigating Zimbabwean society through their work. It is because of these trailblazing Young and Mature artists that Zimbabwe is viewed from a different lens; as Cultured as our History, as critical in thought as any other nation in the world, and fearless in telling our own stories,” Honorable Coventry said in her remarks.

The Pavilion of Zimbabwe artists were singled out by a Committee comprising Freda Isingoma, Lillian Chaonwa, Clifford Zulu, Sifelani Zilawe, Nyadzombe Nyampenza, Tinashe Muchuri and Dr. Biggie Samwanda from a list of over twenty names after rigorous examination of talent that paid particular attention to artists who best express their perspective and interpret contemporaneity in an engaging and inventive manner.

In a statement to the press, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) Publicity described the Muchatuta, Mukwazhi, Musekiwa and Mapondera as mature, with over ten years of practice and honing their painterly skills and having mass appeal on the international market. They will now produce artworks commissioned by the Pavilion of Zimbabwe’s Commissioner, Raphael Chikukwa, to be exhibited at the International Art Exhibition that is slated for May to November of 2022.

The 59th edition of the International Art Exhibition in the beautiful Italian city was supposed to take place between May and November 2021. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, La Biennale di Venezia decided to postpone the show until 2022. In turn, the newly scheduled event will last for 7 months and will be held from April 23 until November 27, 2022.

The artistic director of the 59th edition of the Venice Biennale, Cecilia Alemani is director and chief curator of High Line Art (the public art program at High Line in New York City) will become the fifth woman in charge of the most prestigious international exhibition.

About The Commissioned Artists

Ronald Muchatuta

In the last twenty years, Muchatuta has emerged as a fiery, passionate and undaunted visual artist who is determined to use his platform as a means of change and discourse in our contemporary context. Hailing from Zimbabwe, Ronald explores potentially Zimbabwe’s largest social issue: the Diaspora. Through his work, Ronald examines the effect of leaving one’s homeland physically, spiritually and psychologically.

For Ronald, art is a means of communication and connection: an inherently social and political dialogue that is engaged by the creator and the viewer. Art gives important context to our individual and collective lives. His work is fraught and harrowing – like a people’s collective nervous breakdown translated onto a canvas. These foreboding themes come from Ronald’s own context: a Zimbabwean, his dialogues revolve around the contemporary issues facing the people of Southern Africa – migration, identity politics, post-colonialism and discrimination.

As such, his work is strongly influenced by the act of displacement and the relationship between exiles and migrants and their homelands. Ronald works across different mediums including illustration, painting, collage and mosaics. At an early age, he began to explore pottery and mosaics, two disciplines that would influence his later artworks in his quest to make them relatable, tactile and evocative.

Ronald’s artworks grace numerous private, public and corporate collections including The Spier collection, Hollard, Board members of the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Nandos – fine art collection, US Senate offices and others based in Africa and abroad. He has participated in numerous exhibitions in Africa and internationally including the Stellenbosch Triennale and is often invited to participate in dialogues around issues of pertinence to art and Africa.

Muchatuta is represented by The Melrose Gallery.

Wallen Mapondera

Wallen Mapondera was born in 1985 in Harare, Zimbabwe, and currently lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa. Mapondera completed his Masters degree in Fine Art from Rhodes University in Makhanda, South Africa in 2019. Awards and residencies include: the National Gallery of Zimbabwe Artist-in-Residence Programme hosted at the National Gallery School of Visual Arts and Design Studios in Harare in 2007, the artist-in-residence programme at the Vermont Studio Center, Burlington in Vermont, USA in 2012; in 2015, he was the recipient of Zimbabwe’s prestigious National Arts Merit Award awarded by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, and the Pro Helvetia Studio in Zurich, Switzerland in 2018.

Most recently, Mapondera presented a solo booth with SMAC Gallery in the Nova Section of Art Basel OVR: Miami Beach. Further solo exhibitions include: Chirema Chine Mazano Chinotamba Chakazendama Madziro (Part One), the artist’s MFA exhibition which opened at Rhodes University in Makhanda, South Africa in 2019; Chirema Chine Mazano Chinotamba Chakazendama Madziro (Part Two) at SMAC Gallery in Cape Town in 2020; the following year in 2020. Earlier solo presentations include: Moving Target at SMAC Gallery in Cape Town as well as a solo presentation at Atelier Mondial in Basel, Switzerland in 2019; Emergency Exit at Tyburn Gallery in London, UK; and Samusha Weiri Dongo at SMAC Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa, both in 2018 and Tsananguro | Clarifications at SMAC Gallery in Cape Town in 2017.

Notable group exhibitions include: Matereality at Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa in 2020; Five Bhobh: Painting at the End of an Era at Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCAA) in Cape Town, South Africa in 2018; Familiar Histories: An Unstoppable Force in Contemporary Art Discourse, curated by Raphael Chikukwa, at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2017; X: Part III and Nothing Personal both at SMAC Gallery in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 2017 and 2016 respectively; Between the Sheets at Gallery East in Fremantle, Australia in 2012; Colour Africa, Zeitgenössische Kunst Aus Simbabwe at Kulturallmende gUG in Munich, Germany in 2011; as well as African Expressions at the University of Avignon in Avignon, France in 2010.

Mapondera is represented by SMAC Gallery.

Kresiah Mukwazhi

Born in 1992 in Harare, Zimbabwe, Mukwazhi received her introduction to visual arts and photography at the Zimbabwean National Gallery School of Visual Art and design in Harare, Zimbabwe, and the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg , South Africa. In 2019, Mukwazhi was a resident artist at the Nafasi Art Space, which culminated in an artist talk in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She was also a resident artist at Katutura Art Centre in Windhoek, Namibia, supported by ANT mobility grant, Pro Helvetia. She has participated in various symposiums, notably – Live Art Workshop at the Institute of Creative Arts at the University of Capetown and The Arts Of Africa And Global Souths at Rhodes University. Mukwazhi had her debut solo exhibition, Bedroom Interview with SMAC gallery in Capetown, South Africa, 2018. Her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including Five bhob – Painting at the end of an era at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCCA) and Mixed Company at Norval Foundation both in Cape Town. She is a fellow of the 2020 ICA online fellowship and recently had her second solo exhibition titled Mukando at Jan Kaps gallery in Cologne, Germany.

Terrence Musekiwa

Terrence Musekiwa is based in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe. In 2009 he graduated from The School of The National Gallery of Zimbabwe with a Visual Art Studio Degree. Musekiwa’s highly curated consideration of materials and generational knowledge of carving stone shape his works into spiritual and political metaphors. Solo exhibitions include Standing on a line, not being on either side at Catinca Tabacaru New York (2017); Coming From Where We Are Going, Catinca Tabacaru, New York (2019); and A House in A House, hFACTOR, Lagos Island, Nigeria (2019). In addition to private collections around the world, Musekiwa’s work has been acquired into the permanent collections of US Embassies, The National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Villa Datris Foundation, Tiroche DeLeon Collection and Joel and Sherry Mallin Collection. In 2022 Musekiwa’s work will be included in the 14th Dakar Biennale.

Terrence Musekiwa comes from a long line of sculptors. He started carving stone at the age of five, at first helping his father, Kennedy Musekiwa, and later moving away from traditional aesthetics. Initially, each work began with the familiar toil of shaping the stone, which was then fused with a myriad of found and industrial objects including chains, plastics, glue, farming tools, and resin. In recent years, Musekiwa has broadened his practice, sometimes leaving behind stone altogether and turning to the possibilities of clay and silk.

He breaks the divide between traditional and contemporary, skipping back and forth across that line. His visual language wrestles with convention to simultaneously challenge and pay homage to Zimbabwean tradition. His conceptual vernacular introduces a dialogue about present-day Zimbabwe, its mechanics, micro and macro trade systems, hardships and a quality of magic that permeates the personal lives of its inhabitants.

Musekiwa is represented by Catinca Tabacaru Gallery.

ImChris Charamba

Head Storyteller/Critic at Large in Culture at Enthuse Afrika

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