Art and Design

A chance to celebrate Chiurai's chutzpah

Matthew Partridge

Braamfontein's trendy Juta Street shopping strip will be the site of Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai's launch into international art stardom.

Off the wall: Kudzanai Chiurai’s mock-election poster

Chiurai will stage an event, Left Behind, on Saturday night, June 9. And judging from a prior party ­— when he opened his Goodman Gallery show State of the Nation in Newtown there was dancing in the street and video art projected on to a large screen behind an Afro-pop singer — the­ ­normally sedate boutique ­environment is in for a shake-up.

Co-hosted by Room Project Space and Co-op gallery, the event is part of an unofficial launch for Chiurai’s Conflict Resolution, which will be shown at the prestigious Documenta 13 exhibition, which opens in Kassel, Germany, tomorrow (June 9). The bash will include musicians Thandiswa Mazwai, Joao ­Orecchia and the Blk Jks.

Conflict Resolution consists of a new series of photographs, to be exhibited at Room, and a new series of mock election posters,  which will be hung at the Co-op gallery.

He has chosen not to exhibit the two bodies of work together because “the posters do not have as much fun in a ­gallery space — they needed something ­different”.

Katy Taplin of Co-op expressed her delight at hosting Conflict Resolution,  saying the gallery had enjoyed a “long-standing relationship” with Chiurai, having exhibited some of the first of his election posters. Taplin added that “the mass medium really fits with our rubric”.

Chiurai’s recent work has been characterised by this kind of exploration of different spaces and mediums, with him finding new parts of the city to use as platforms for his work.


Conflict zones

State of the Nation proved that, ­outside of the familiar gallery context, large-scale works can meld with the environment and become players in the public event.

Speaking about Conflict Resolution, Chiurai said the posters “ask what we define as resolution”. Coming from politically fraught Zimbabwe as part of the born-free generation — he was born a year after independence in 1980 — has meant that much of his work has been concerned with political, economic and social upheaval on the African continent.

His newer work has explored issues facing Southern Africa, such as xenophobia, displacement and black empowerment.

The artist’s statement for the show states: “The spaces within which conflict has been taking place vary to the extent of our own understanding of what defines conflict. Our understanding of resolution is therefore also brought to the fore as we question the validity and nature of force used in our attempts at peace.”

Trained initially as a painter, ­Chiurai has branched out into other mediums, including photography and video installation. Two video installations will be on show on Friday, with accompaniment by experimental musician ­Orecchia.

Asked about the title of the event, Left Behind, Chiurai said he would not be going to Documenta this year as he had “lost his passport”. The title and the show are his way of giving a “local shout-out” to all others who will not be able to make it to the exhibition this year.

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