WE ARE HERE
Evans Tinashe Mutenga
Extension of the exhibition until November 16th!
19 September - 20 October 2019
31 project presents its second exhibition with the artists Misheck Masamvu, Epheas Maposa and Evans Tinashe Mutenga of the Zimbabwean collective Village Unhu.
We are here pamasonga is a calling for a gathering.
In shona "Pamasonga" indicates the meeting between two rivers, the confluence.
We are on the move but together here and now: 3 artists in transit between Harare and Paris.
For this exhibition, the artists propose a set of works on paper. Through various practices between painting, drawing, printing and collage, they approach the representation of the body with a common vision centred on hybridization. Dislocation of volumes, distortion of lines and materials: the singularity of the figures is erased and absorbed in favour of the representation of a body in struggle; a social body and a political body, embodying Zimbabwe's recent and current history.
Waiting for rain
Curator – Johannesburg
We are here pamasonga is presented by 31 project, showcasing the work of three artists from Harare who currently work with the collective Village Unhu: co-founder and mentor Misheck Masamvu, and resident artists Evans Tinashe Mutenga and Epheas Maposa. Village Unhu was founded in 2012 by Misheck Masamvu, Georgina Maxim and Gareth Nyandoro as an art collective, a family, and a space that would foster and encourage creative learning and experimentation. It was established in a time of uncertainty after a period of economic freefall, politically motivated violence, government repression and intimidation. A village is a community, working for the greater good of the plural ‘we’. It is based on the philosophy of unhu/Ubuntu/vunhu – a term meaning ‘humanity’ or ‘I am because we are’. Despite the perpetual uncertainty that continues to haunt Zimbabwe’s hopes and dreams, The collective has continued to grow, adapt, and hold space where young artists can develop and thrive. They provides studio and exhibition space, mentorship, learning through exchange, and opportunities to exhibit internationally.
We are here pamasonga is about the fabric of ‘we’, a collective that has brought together many different artists across generations, borders and cultures for its residency and education programmes. In Shona ‘pamasonga’ indicates the place where two rivers flow together and become one. It is the place where ideas can mix and circulate, inspiring the flow of new ways of thinking about the world and our place in it.
Presenting works on paper, exposed to different treatments of painting, drawing, printing and collage, the artists approach the representation of the human body as a hybrid figure, simultaneously entangled with and dislocated from the social and political context of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean body is a site of colonial memory and violence - past, present and future. It is a site of resistance, struggle, and resilience. It is a regulated body; a body failed by its leaders. It is a migrant body; a commodity for cheap/forced labour; displaced; repatriated bodies. Spiritually, it is a devout body, feeding on the body of Christ; it is an ancient hybrid body, inextricably connected to totems used among the Shona since the initial development of their culture to identify different clans that are associated with animals such as Shato/Mheta (python), Mbizi/Tembo (zebra), Shumba (lion), Soko (monkey), Nzou (elephant), and Ngwena (crocodile), or body part totems such as Gumbo (leg), Moyo (heart), and Bepe (lung). These pressures converge to pull the body apart in the work of these three artists - contorting and twisting it in Masumvu’s gestural expressionist line drawings; concealing, tearing and revealing it in Mutenga’s collages; and crushing the spirit out of the insipid figures in Maposa’s tightly brushed paintings.
The small format and fine line drawings are a departure from Masamvu’s more familiar imposing canvases, bursting with unrestrained bodily brushstrokes in vivid oil colours. Having studied at Kunste Akademie in Munich, it is unsurprising that Masamvu has sifted through European movements to find the Neo Expressionist techniques he uses to create the turbulent landscapes of his painted works - in stark contrast is the white void that envelops the figures in his drawings. In the intimacy of these drawings we recognise the figures and shapes that populate his paintings, removed from the cacophony of materiality and colour; vulnerable and ungrounded. We can connect with the raw distress of the convulsing and disjointed figures, with their scratched, mutilated faces and disturbingly distorted forms.
This scratching/obscuring of faces is also evident in Mutenga’s surrealist, abstract portraits of ‘comrades’, a global term widely used by liberation or guerrilla militants. The works in this series are produced using found posters displayed at Harare intersections to advertise sensational headlines of Zimbabwe’s daily newspapers, roughly torn away to reveal either black or brightly colourful painted surfaces. The technique is reminiscent of fellow Zimbabwean artist Gareth Nyandoro’s treatment of cutting back layers of white paper to reveal the painted surfaces beneath, or Basquiat’s collaged Xeroxes. Perhaps they are just the remnants of memory and forgetting, like torn wheat paste posters used by street artists, music and event promoters.
Traces of Francisco Goya and Théodore Géricault can be found in the work of Maposa in his treatment of haunting, weary figures, with their faces strained or heads hung low. As the youngest of these three artists, born in 1994, just three years before Zimbabwe’s economy began to freefall when the Zimbabwe dollar lost 71,5% of its value against the United States dollar, Maposa has only ever known a Zimbabwe that is fatigued, disheartened ‘waiting for rain’- like the title of Zimbabwean writer Charles Mungoshi’s 1975 book of the same name. Such metaphors of drought and hunger permeate Zimbabwean and African literature, capturing the malaise and paralysis of many conflict-zones and developing countries the world over – ‘waiting’ for relief, an abundance, incapacitated by the belief that some external force will bring change that may never come.
Born in Zimbabwe in 1980. He lives and works in Harare.
Misheck Masamvu's work is of a rare expressionist intensity, centred on the corporality of hybrid and disarticulated human creatures. The body is forced into immobile violence: a puppet of flesh and hair, sometimes grotesque, sometimes dramatic, always suffering and powerless. His work shows a great plastic liberty and demonstrates a complex colourist vision from which Misheck Masamvu designs his spaces.
For the exhibition We are here pamasonga, he presents a series of drawings playing on voids, tracing and suspension. A sober graphic ensemble that offers a unique counterpoint to his painted works.
Trained at the Kunstakademie in Munich, his career quickly took an international turn with his participation in the Dakar Biennale in 2006 and his particiqption in the Zimbabwean pavilion of the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 with the National Gallery. In 2016 he participated in the Sao Paulo Biennale. He currently shows his second one man show with Goodman Gallery titled "Hata". Masamvu is the co-founder and co-director of the artist collective Village Unhu in Harare.
Born in Zimbabwe in 1994. He lives and works in Harare.
The body and the narrative are central in Epheas Maposa's work: half-man, half-animal creatures, with strong lines, evolving in surrealist and baroque universes. Each work delivers a narrative on the edge, mixing in a dreamlike vein, drawn details and colourful motifs. A prolific narrator, Epheas Maposa uses the distortion of bodies and spaces to create disillusioned stories about the decay of Zimbabwe's social and political structure.
Epheas Maposa is self-taught. Drawing on the street, his primary source of inspiration, he joined Village Unhu back in 2013 where he received space and materials to work and develop his practice alongside other artists of the collective. From 2014 he exhibited at the National gallery of Zimbabwe, as well as at the Delta Gallery.
In 2017, 2018 and 2020 he participated in the FNB Joburg art fair and Investec Cape Town art fair. He also took part in several residency programmes between Johannesburg and Harare. In 2019 he was awarded the second Emerging painting pan African art prize.
Evans Tinashe Mutenga
Born in Zimbabwe in 1987. He lives and works in Harare.
Evans Mutenga works with paper not as a simple surface but as a material that he tears, manipulates, inks and coats. He creates almost abstract portraits by playing with the layers of this transformed paper.
The "Comrade" series is a collection of portraits of comrades, veterans and friends: the mythical characters involved in conflicts that took place in the past are represented here in an almost evanescent way, belonging to a history with which the country is working to reconcile itself.
A graduate of the National Gallery School of Visual Art and Design's in Harare and the Polytechnic Colleges, Evans Tinashe Mutenga is a member of the Village Unhu collective. Since 2013 he has exhibited mainly in Zimbabwe with Delta Gallery, Village Unhu and the National Gallery but also in Paris with the 31 PROJECT gallery. Between 2016 and 2018 he participated in the FNB Joburg art fair, Investec Cape Town Art Fair and also worked at John Mafuangejo Printing studios in Namibia.
This exhibition is promoted and mounted by 31 PROJECT and the Charles Wesley Hourdé Gallery, in collaboration with Village Unhu.