Kabbo Ka Muwala/ The Girl’s Basket” is an exhibition currently on at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. It focuses on migration and mobility in contemporary art in Southern and Eastern Africa. It is a travelling exhibition that explores the theme of migration, dispersion-based experiences and the physical and psychological barriers that affect migrants. The exhibition is a collaboration between the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Makerere Art Gallery in Kampala, Uganda, and the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, Germany.
“Kabbo Ka Muwala” means “the girl’s basket” in Luganda, a major language in Uganda. The expression refers to the practice of a young bride taking a basket full of goods with her when she joins her new family, but also when visiting or returning to her family of origin. The basket is a metaphor for the mental and material luggage of migrants: their expectations, hopes, successes as well as disappointments and failures. Additionally, the metaphor emphasises the gender dimensions which are at play during the migration process.
Executive director of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Doreen Sibanda, said, “It offers a fresh perspective on the plight of migration and mobility and draws from what the artists from Africa have experienced and have observed. The issue of immigration is a very interesting one because it touches each and every one of us at some point. The fate of displaced people around the world is commanding renewed interest as the turmoil in various parts of the world is taking its toll. People undertake enormous risks in pursuit of a better life they perceive to be elsewhere.”
Sibanda added that it was for this reason that it was significant for Zimbabwe to host this particular exhibition. “To have Zimbabwe host Kabbo Ka Muwala at this moment is particularly poignant as it is an experience that resonates with almost every family as many people continue to cross borders in pursuit of supplementary support and improved livelihoods.”
The exhibition features photography, video art, installations, mixed media, and performance representing the artists’ perspective. Participating artists include Berry Bickle, Jodi Bieber, The Border Farm Project, Rehema Chachage, Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, Kudzanai Chiurai, Anawana Haloba, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Wanja Kimani, Miriam Syowia Kyambi, Gerald Machona, Nastio Mosquito, Victor Mutelekesha, Mwangi Hutter, Emma Wolukau-Wananambwa and Helen Zeru.
The inaugural exhibit is running at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe until April 4, before travelling to Makerere Art Gallery in Kampala, Uganda where it will run from April 14 to June 12. Finally, Kabbo ka Muwala will end its migratory journey at Städtische Galerie Bremen in Germany where it will run from September 24 to December 11.
A conference about Women and Migration similar to Kabbo ka Muwala exhibition also took place at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe for International Women’s Day March 8-9 with issues focusing on human trafficking, cross border traders and revisiting migration policies.
Image: The opening of the Kabbo ka Muwala exhibition.