The inaugural exhibition of Harare’s newest arts space opened last night to excellent attendance.
Multifaceted Arts Domain (MAD) is the result of a ten year dream of St. John’s College art teacher Amanda Van de Merwe. For the venue’s first exhibit, the theme Loving Zimbabwe was chosen and expressed through the work of 19 photographers displaying 64 pieces.
The physical dimension of MAD is a huge oval room with a high thatched roof along Enterprise Road in Glen Lorne. It accommodated what I guessed to be nearly two hundred people, though drinks were served outside under the stars.
The photographs were varied in subject and scope, from the large, stark black and white wildlife images by Craig Van Zyl (see above), to a colourful emotive montage of smaller snapshots from around Zimbabwe by Michele Fortman whose personal statement highlights the importance of technology to her art – she uses her iPhone and Instagram in this instance. My favourite in her display were the glimpses into our urban spaces, often distorted be it by mixed focus, raindrops on car windows or fluttering flags obscuring a view (see below).
Several photographers proved Harare to be a highly photogenic city. Mana Meadows’ dusk shot of the CBD unveils from above the bright lights and sharp angles of our concrete jungle. It is noticeably devoid of people but hauntingly suggestive of bustling life.
Among my overall favourites was Davina Jogi’s shot of a white-robed Vapostori elder descending into the valley behind the red cliff at Ngomokurira. The dazzling evening light and luxuriousness of wet rocks and lush vegetation make the spiritual subject matter perfectly placed. It’s a timeless piece, with an almost biblical narrative to it.
To open the exhibit and to express the multifaceted intentions of MAD (which Van de Merwe also pointed out could stand for Music, Art and Dance), a choir from St. John’s College ‘flash-mobbed’ the audience, by starting their performance from within the crowd and then moving together to sing. A young poet performed a piece describing flashes of scenery and people familiar to all Zimbabweans – elements that we know so well as part of a place we call home.
The speakers were all involved in MAD as part of its directorship and spoke passionately about the rich heritage and value of Zimbabwean art at home and on the world map.
“The power of our stories inspires us and helps us to celebrate each other and our country,” explained MAD co-founder Rutendo Mutsamwira. MAD Chairperson Tapiwa Musoni highlighted the role of the artist as “a sacred responsibility to be an ambassador of art and also for Zimbabwe,” but that “the best artist that I can be is one that is appreciated by the people of my own country before the people of the world.”
As I moved around the exhibition it was wonderful to see people leaning in to scrutinize hidden detail, or standing in the middle of the room to get a feel for the whole collective.
One guest I chatted to, a graphic and video production artist, expressed a hope that MAD will ensure that its arts mix is well balanced. I agree. If MAD is to live up to its bold ambitions of becoming a melting pot of forms and ideas, a space representative of creativity in all its manifestations, then they must make exhibit number two something ‘off the wall’ perhaps.
Moreover, I hope that moving on from this formal opening event, the organisers can take a page out of Njelele’s book and ensure that art is available to inspire people from every part of our multifaceted society.
M.A.D is situated at Rumbavu Park (Green Park) on Enterprise Road in Glen Lorne, approximately four kilometres beyond the Chisipite circle. It is flanked by Coopers Gardening Services on the left and Giulianna’s Restaurant on the right.
‘Loving Zimbabwe’ will be open to the public on weekends from 1 to 28 March, entry $2.
Elements from from Alice Tawaya’s ‘Awakening’ series.