Zimbabwe is among few African nations returning to Italy for the 59th Venice Biennale, often described as “the Olympics of the art world”.
The 59th Venice Biennale runs from next month to November next year. Interrupted by the global Covid-19 pandemic, Zimbabwe’s return to the Venice Biennale, marks the nation’s sixth consecutive appearance, where it will fly high the brand Zimbabwe flag.
Four artists — one female and three male — who will represent the country at this most prestigious cultural and creative industries’ global event, were unveiled on Wednesday in Harare. The participating artists are Kressiah Mukwazhi, Wallen Mapondera, Ronald Muchatuta and Terrence Musekiwa.
Zimbabwe’s representatives at the 58th Venice Biennale comprised Kudzanai Violet Hwami, Georgina Maxim, Cosmas Shiridzinomwa and Neville Starling.
Prior to that, the nation’s representatives at the 57th Venice Biennale were Charles Bhebe, Admire Kamudzengerere, Dana Whabira and Sylvester Mubayi. In announcing the artists who will represent Zimbabwe next year, Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry, saluted the quartet and their predecessors, pointing out that they had made an impact on the global arts arena through their work.
She explained: “These men and women have been steadfast ambassadors, who made Zimbabwe to be revered and viewed through a different lens; as cultured as our history, as critical in thought as any other nation in the world, and, above all as fearless in telling their own stories. “Now, a new crop of artists steps to the fore. The culture of creativity is proving inexhaustible, even in the era of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The Ministry, she explained, will strive to ensure that as a sector, the international visibility of Zimbabwe’s creative and cultural industries is guaranteed.
“In assuming this character, the sector continues to contribute to the positive image-building for Zimbabwe,” said Minister Coventry. “Most importantly, the Zimbabwean pavilion in Venice is a platform for our artists to shine at this most prestigious global art event.
“As a Government, we supported the Zimbabwe pavilion with other partners on our inaugural and second appearances. We have taken the full responsibility to make sure that the Zimbabwe pavilion remains a priority on our budget list.
“I am excited that this quartet reflects my Ministry’s mandate; Youth and Art.”
Minister Coventry explained that in sending the four artists to represent the country at the 59th Venice Biennale, the Government was walking the talk in implementing four of the 10 pillars in Zimbabwe’s Cultural and Creative Industries strategy.
She identified these as follows: establishing cultural markets and business development; raising intellectual property and copyright awareness; establishing cultural diplomacy and global business for purposes of re-engagement; and safeguarding cultural heritage.
The Wednesday event observed a minute’s silence in honour of creatives who died recently.
Kressiah Mukwazhi received her introduction to visual arts and photography at the Zimbabwean National Gallery School of Visual Art and design in Harare and the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 2019, Mukwazhi was a resident artist at the Nafasi Art Space, which culminated in an artist talk in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She was also a resident artist at Katutura Art Centre in Windhoek, Namibia.
She has participated in various symposiums, notably — Live Art Workshop at the Institute of Creative Arts at the University of Cape Town and The Arts of Africa and Global South at Rhodes University.
Mukwazhi had her debut solo exhibition, Bedroom Interview with SMAC gallery in Cape Town, South Africa, 2018.