Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai’s recently opened exhibition, “We Need New Names,” at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, aptly describes the Southern African nation’s current political moment. Earlier this week, the country’s military called a news conference to announce they were staging a coup d’etat. In deposing, President Robert Mugabe, the 93-year-old revolutionary who became Prime Minister of Zimbabwe after the country won independence from Britain in 1980, it seemed like the possibility of picking a new leader and thus making the artist’s demand a reality, was a real possibility. Yesterday, Mugabe announced his resignation.
It seems now, though, that the Zimbabwe military intervention is an effort to maintain the status quo. To succeed Mugabe, who has ruled for 37 years, the ruling Zanu-PF party has chosen his long-serving and recently removed Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa to assume power as the country’s next dictator, signaling that they do not want new names, but an existing one. Perhaps all this proves that Chiurai’s two exhibitions of photographs, video, and sculpture wrestle with ideas of Afrofuturism, gender and political freedom, are more necessary than ever to move these conversations forward.
In Chiurai’s photographic series, “Revolutions” and “Genesis,” the artist uses female protagonists to bend past and present in an effort to propose a new symbol for a real, post-colonial future. Other works in the exhibitions like “Popular Mechanics,” “Shopping for Democracy” and the series “We Live In Silence” are explorations of what Chiurai calls “colonial futures.” It’s the idea that African nations that fought and won independence from European powers are still being shaped systemically by the colonialist social and political institutions that presently govern the lives of Africans.
With the future of Zimbabwe hanging in the balance, we called Chiurai, who also has an early retrospective concurrently mounted at Cape Town’s Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art, in the country’s capital of Harare to discuss his art’s call for revolution. Read more