AT THE GALLERY
A Delegation from the Netherlands’ Mondriaan Fonds visited Harare in September on a fact-finding mission that was geared to understand the needs of the Southern African cultural landscape.
The orientation trip was facilitated by the Mondriaan Fonds in cooperation with the Flanders Art Institute of Belgium, the Danish Arts Foundation of Denmark, and Pro Helvetia of Switzerland.
The group who were part of the delegation are artists, curators and arts managers from the above listed countries, with the group of 14 visiting creative and cultural centres in South Africa and Zimbabwe over a period of 13 days in the region.
The “Meeting of Minds” exhibition comes at a time when Zimbabwe continues to re-engage with the rest of the world and celebrates inter-cultural exchanges that have strengthened the people-to-people relations. Artists on this show come from different generations and their practice has a link to the Netherlands.
The common understanding that brings them together is their artistic practice and their role and function in contemporary art discourse.
For generations in the African continent, art has always been there as a medium of communication that brings people together.
The artworks are different and make use of different media that include stone sculpture, paintings, photography and mixed media.
These works bring strong emotions, personal stories and links with the Netherlands.
The National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) managed to speak to two members of the delegation -Annet Zondervan (AZ) of CBK Zooduist, a Dutch cultural organisation based in Amsterdam; and Olivia Fahmy (OF), a curator at the Centre de la Photographie Geneve and Tunnel Tunnel, Swiss art organisations. They were asked as to the nature of the orientation trip and questioned on their thoughts on grant making and receiving and how they contribute to artistic development.
NGZ: Do you believe grants empower artists (or/ and institutions) or do they create a form of dependency?
OF: I think it empowers them. Somehow, of course, it is not sustainable but it shows interest for artistic practices. I think it is already a good input.
AZ: I do believe grants are empowering for the practice of artists or/and institutions. It gives them the possibility and time to develop their practice without too much focus on the market and the specific market-based dynamics.
NGZ: During your orientation trip, have you found any constrictive environments in the Southern Africa region’s funding atmosphere?
OF: Yes, I did and I think all in all it was really positive. The thing is, it is not usual for me to see the market having this important impact on the artistic scene. But as long as the artists have really relevant practices (that I had the chance to see or discover) I think it is fine.
NGZ: Will there be a publication of your orientation trips findings?
AZ: When a follow-up is realised — either a publication or any other possible form such as residency, purchase artworks, work on show in an exhibition — then of course we will name it as a follow-up form this trip.
OF: Yes, we have a web log and we write on it about all our visits everyday: at orientationtrip2018.com
NGZ: If there will be a published report, will it be accessible to the locations at which the orientation delegation visited?
AZ: I will inform the locations /artists in concern, of course.
NGZ: With regards to the locations you have visited, have you found the artistic practice in the region to be provincial in its output and conceptual approach?
AZ: Not as far I have seen is there a difference in artistic approach and its output related to the region in comparison with Harare.
OF: Not at all and I don’t like this word. Or maybe I like it because it says something really important about what would be called the “periphery’, it has a valuable sense.
NGZ: As we shift our attention to the Meeting of Minds exhibition, would you please offer a background on the exhibition?
OF: I discovered many artists with great practices that I will follow in due course.
AZ: CBK Zuidoost knows and cooperates with several artists on show to be more precise; Admire Kamudzengerere, Terence Musekiwa and Option Dzikamai Nyanhunzvi ; the project Folktales & Taboos
NGZ: How is your organisation interconnected to the “Meeting of Minds”?
OF: It is not, I had the chance to be there because of the support of Pro Helvetia because I am a curator in Switzerland.
NGZ: Where will the orientation delegation be headed next?
OF: We will be visiting several institutions in Harare and then in Bulawayo.
NGZ: What effect has the orientation trip had with regards networking and cultural exchange between your organisation and Zimbabwe?
AZ: Two weeks after the trip it is a bit too soon to ask for this kind results, but I am sure the network is reinforced and after time this will lead up to concrete results.
At the official opening of the “Meeting of Minds” exhibition, the visiting Mondriaan Fonds director, Brigit Donker, emphasised the power of Zimbabwean creativity and its mass appeal on the global stage whilst the Dutch Ambassador to Zimbabwe, H.E. Mrs Barbara van Hellemond, stated in her remarks: “The arts make us look at our own world through different eyes as they challenge our imagination.
“The arts make us look in the mirror and challenge our own preconceptions and biases. Culture has a very important role to play in society, as it serves as a sign of the times.”
H.E. van Hellemond pointed out that from these conditions, relationships could be developed and strengthened and continuous support of the creative sector would serve as an amalgam to that end.
The “Meeting of Minds” exhibition runs until the end of October.