Downtown in Harare’s busy CBD is a brand new gallery. Hosting hardly more than 20 people at a time, the first exhibition pays tribute to Zimbabwe’s history. Images of spirit mediums and First Chimurenga heroes are painted against landscapes of modern day Harare.
Outside one can hear the clattering of metal at a nearby garage and the shouts of touts loading passengers onto their commuters. This is a gallery that seeks to take art to the people.
Named after one of the oldest and most revered religious shrines in the country, Njelele Art Station bears further historical significance as it is situated along Kaguvi Street next to a street named after another nationalist heroine Mbuya Nehanda, just a short distance from where she and Kaguvi were hanged.
The gallery’s inaugural exhibition, by veteran photographer Calvin Dondo, bears a series of pictures of these spirit mediums. “I am happy to exhibit at this new gallery which provides an alternative space adding a new dimension for art in Zimbabwe,” says Dondo.
The gallery will exhibit different art mediums including film, animation, video installation and performance art.
The Gallery’s Artistic Director, Dana Whabira said that it was only on opening the space that they discovered that artists are lacking proper equipment and material when doing their work. This also includes the right framing. Whabira said they will be able to help with this once they set up their coffee shop and other income generating projects.
Since it opened, an average of fifteen people have visited the gallery each day. There is usually parking to be found near the gallery.
“Njelele is a people’s place. Artists should be free to come and express themselves knowing that they are home,” said Gladys Hwami, the gallery’s administrator.
A string of contemporary galleries have been emerging to complement the well-established National Gallery of Zimbabwe and Gallery Delta. The most visible of these is First Floor Gallery, situated downtown on George Silundika Avenue. This gallery aims to go beyond the limits of traditional demarcation.
Public Relations and Marketing Director Marcus Gora at First Floor explained: “Our goal is to support Zimbabwe’s emerging art sector and develop support and audience for contemporary art in a way that complements the work of our flagship institutions, educational institutions and other galleries.”
Njelele Art Station is at 131 Kaguvi Street. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am – 4pm.