Walking into First Floor Gallery (FFG) last Thursday evening, one was greeted by a surprisingly larger audience than usually visits the space. Not the usual dressed up members of the diplomatic corp., a common feature at many galleries’ exhibition opening nights, but the general faces you meet daily in the city.
This audience was certainly not disappointed, at this, the opening of Dramascapes, Wycliffe Mundopa’s first solo show. His artworks, beautiful canvases that hang on the walls were a delight not only capturing emotion, but also relating to many people as they are largely centred on woman in different situations. They speak of the extraordinary drama of ordinary lives while delivering a powerful and uncompromising testimonial of unspoken and unspeakable truths concealed by the public face of routine and social conventions.
Deep within the Shona poetic tradition of metaphor and transformation, Mundopa’s images take on cultural and social taboos with passion and poignancy without moralising or self-righteousness. FFG director Valarie Kabov explains, “Wycliffe Mundopa is already a veteran in the Harare’s art scene and a tenacious witness to Zimbabwe contemporary life. He is a passionate advocate of the lives of women and children in Harare’s underprivileged neighbourhoods with a drive to acknowledge those, who are too often swept under the carpet by society.”
Kabov said Mundopa’s works transcend their subject matter to become an opportunity to see human lives through the fractures and junctures of tradition and change, clashes of moral codes and the economic strains. “The colours in his canvases scream passion and pain, underscored by the lovingly razor-edged elegance of his lines.”
Mundopa explains his work, “I used mostly small pieces of cloth joined together to represent my current state. Everything I have is joined together, even my education, I only studied art up to ‘O’ Level. Most of what I do is self taught.”
Mundopa’s exceptional skill and expressive power has won him acclaim and popularity among both collectors and critics. His works are collected and exhibited as far as Kenya, Australia, France, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, Thailand and Cameroon. Mundopa has been showing with First Floor Gallery Harare since 2010 and has most recently represented the gallery at Berliner Liste 2013 International Art Fair as well as the inaugural edition of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, 2013 in London.