ON July 12 in 1957, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) was officially opened by the Queen Mother of the United Kingdom.
Sixty years later, the institution still stands, as a preserve of African cultural heritage. Considering that not many Zimbabweans bother to invest time in understanding what really happens in this art space — it is quite a milestone that Government and staff at the gallery have managed to keep it open and fully functional.
NGZ will be hosting a variety of events to celebrate its Diamond Jubilee. The Sunday Mail Leisure spoke to NGZ executive director, Doreen Sibanda, about the celebrations.
“The gallery was opened way back in July 1957 and we are really excited to have managed to inherit this space and keep it afloat till now. To celebrate our 60th anniversary, we have lined up a number of activities throughout the course of the year, in the form of exhibitions and parties, as opposed to just having one major event,” said Sibanda.
She added: “So already we have had a couple of exhibitions that reflect on the journey thus far and we will be having more as the year progresses.”
Some of the events include hosting the second International Congress of African Cultures, with the last one having been held in 1962.
“In 2017 we will host the second iteration of the International Congress of African Cultures and we trust it will have more momentum than the first one. This is especially since we are driven to retake ownership of our artistic narrative and assert our leadership in affairs of this nature.”
Sibanda also indicated that there would be a Diamond Anniversary Gala in July dubbed, “Rockin’ it since ’57”.
“A critical exhibition to look out for as we celebrate our anniversary is the one we will host in September. This show will be mapping the development of art in Zimbabwe from the ’60s till now. It will be a historical exhibition featuring the artistes that have contributed to significant shifts in the development of art in Zimbabwe,” she highlighted.
One of the major aims of the gallery has been to make the space more relevant to all Zimbabweans as opposed to artistes, arts critics and the few who appreciate visual arts.
“It takes time to make institutions such as this one that were developed before independence relevant to the majority. Many still see them as some colonial relics and yet inside it’s the people’s work and heritage.
“Maybe it’s the packaging that is a bit intimidating. We will work hard to ensure that the majority of Zimbabweans begin to appreciate the art space and understand the critical role it plays in preserving our national heritage.”
Sibanda pointed out that over the past 20 years parents have begun to slowly comprehend visual art and are now supporting their children in pursuing a career in the field.
“What is also exciting as we celebrate our 60th anniversary is that we are slowly seeing a shift in mindset from Zimbabwean parents as they are now appreciating the arts and are seeing that their children are able to make a living off the arts.
“In years gone by we used to get children who are so passionate about visual art coming through to see the works and get inspiration, only for their dreams to be quashed by their parents. However, nowadays we have noticed a shift in mindset and parents are now supporting their children who want to pursue careers in the visual arts field,” reflected Sibanda.
NGZ has over the years contributed immensely in getting local artistes international exposure. They helped build artistes’ careers, some are now exhibiting in foreign lands while some are regarded as virtuosos in the game the world over.