Takura challenges xenophobia through art

VISUAL artist Tawanda Takura, who drew attention through an exhibition of warning shoe mounds, has come up with another exquisite showcase.

Having been enlisted by conservatives in Mzansi to come up with striking creative responses to difficult ills such as xenophobia and suggest best practices in land reform, Takura proved more than up to the challenge.

Takura said Newspaper life and style that after having an art residency in 2021 at the Nirox Sculpture Park in South Africa, he was again invited this year to participate in a group exhibition on the theme good neighbors at the same place.

“The exhibition focused on examining the relationship with our neighboring countries to foster peace, community and border issues and what it means to have neighbors, as well as topics such as xenophobia and reform The exhibition featured 30 artists from Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe with Moffat Takadiwa and myself representing the country.

Takura captivated more than one through his installation Rurimi Kamwenje.

“For this exhibition, I created an artwork seven meters long and installed it approximately 3m high, 2m wide and 2m long. The work is titled Rurimi Kamwenje (your tongue like fire) which is made up of shoe tongues, shoe desire and a mousetrap to which I was exploring the use of our tongue, what we say and how we say it, it shapes our actions and we get entangled in our own languages. I was focusing on xenophobic issues which affected us greatly and made visiting and shopping in foreign countries a nightmare. Boundaries are man-made barriers that we have allowed to define humanity,” Takura said.

Takura, born and raised in Chitungwiza, works with discarded old shoes – a motivation that stems from one of his occupations of leather crafts, shoe making and shoe repair.

“I used to sell shoes in the community. Once the shoes were torn up I would find them thrown in dumpsters and collect what was left of them at home, I suspect they had sentimental value due to the time and energy I had invested in them .

“The way they looked like in their old state had an aesthetic appeal that fascinated me and in that realization I started playing with shapes and that’s how it all started,” Takura said.

Takura’s award-winning art has been honed through several residencies which began in (2012) at Village Unhu art studio, working alongside some of Zimbabwe’s famous artists, Gareth Nyandoro, Portia Zvavahera and Misheck Masamvu.

“I was awarded first prize in the Annual Heritage Competition at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in 2014 and the Chinese Year of the Horse (2014). Since 2014 to date, I have participated in group exhibitions and residencies locally at the Delta Gallery and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and internationally in Mauritius (2016), Hong Kong (2017) and South Africa at the Johannesburg and Cape Town Art Fairs (2019 -2022) I am currently working with the Guns and Rain gallery in South Africa.

Takura added, “My work reflects the social structures we live in and engages with ecclesiastical institutions and their existence in our societies, challenging issues of identity and being spiritually central to the way I work. Sometimes I take on the role of the narrator recounting what happened in my life and sometimes the role of the spectator witnessing a situation unfolding in people’s lives.

Takura challenged the media to effectively cover artists without bias, as Zimbabwe has diverse talent that needs to be showcased in every corner of the world.

“Publicity for my work was the main challenge as I had very little local exposure. Social platforms were a big help and I think as artists our practice is disconnected from our communities and we need more of our local people to actually buy into and support our creative practices.

“The feelings are the same with other working artists, the art traffic locally is quite slow. There are very few art spaces that promote art. Now in my community, as a artist, we have created a collective called Chitungwiza Art Collective which is artist-led to provide emerging and mid-career artists the platform to regularly showcase their open studios in their backyards.

Chitungwiza now has vibrant arts hubs such as Post studio, Animal Farm Studio, Wailers Studio and Chitungwiza Arts Centre.

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Christopher S. Washington