Young masters’ exhibit at National Gallery

By DC Rodrigues

ONE of the most hip things in the art world today is to curate an exhibition, especially when the artwork is by young dynamic artists. So when Odiola Vurinosara came up with The Young Masters

‘ Exhibition at Harare’s National Gallery, she not only placed herself at the forefront of Zim Hip, but also showed herself to be an artist and an historian.


This exhibition catalogues the achievements of artists who benefited from the BAT Workshop (sponsored by the British American Tobacco Company from 1980-2000), subsequently re-named the National Gallery Visual Art Studio, and currently supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation (Norad).


Over the last 25 years, young artists at the workshop, selected for their talent, have studied painting, drawing, textiles, weaving, art history and sculpture. This nurturing environment has produced many outstanding artists, winners of Commonwealth awards and scholarships, and creators of internationally acclaimed and sought after work.


Although some of these artists are now deceased, their paintings and sculptures are on display to inspire and delight. The late Hillary Kashiri’s two large abstract mixed media paintings, in muted tones of dove grey, blue, faintest pink and charcoal suggest the tranquil dawn of a life full of promise. Untitled, these paintings differ from earlier supremely confident work, of geometrically divided landscapes in deep greens and reds.


Like many other Zimbabwean artists, the late Fasoni Sibanda painted scenes from everyday life. Easily recognisable in Zengeza 4 Market is the lean-to vegetable stall, bursting with local produce. Easy and fluid brush strokes portray eager customers inspecting piles of organic vegetables.


A recent graduate of the NGVA Studio is Tongesai Machiri, whose oil on canvas painting, Where Do We Go? is a realistic depiction of the current situation of many homeless people. Two women, their remaining worldly goods packed into two small bags, sit disconsolately at the roadside, pondering their future.


An exciting young artist currently in residence at the National Gallery in Harare, is Anthony Bumhira. His two large acrylic paintings on canvas, Quartets and The City, give an insight into metropolitan sophistication. Vivid oranges and reds lend movement and vitality to unmistakably African images of musicians and city life.


In contrast to the paintings on exhibition is Stanford Derere’s stone sculpture, Mhingidzo, a highly atmospheric installation of five equidistant chained figures.


Heads tilted skywards, these minimalist yet powerful beings seem to await divine instruction. Whether avian or human, they are of one accord and seem intent on performing a rite essential to the preservation of the order of things.


All the artists in the Young Masters’ Exhibition offer something which is essentially Zimbabwean and immediately recognisable as such, and yet personal and unique. Benefiting from the input, over the years, of artists such as Paul Wade, Kate Raath, Chiko Chazunguza and Nicola Gear, to name but a few, the NGVA studio can only go from strength to strength.


This exhibition speaks for itself, but it’s thanks to art teacher, artist and curator, Odiola Vurinosara, that the “Young Masters” have a platform from which to convey their collective visions and aspirations. Vurinosara is one of several powerful women, whose efforts and achievements currently make a great contribution to the art world in Zimbabwe. Whether it will be as cutting edge curator or serious artist, I look forward eagerly to her next contribution.


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