ZUSAA Calls for Artists to Promote Tolerance

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – The Zimbabwe-United States Alumni Association (ZUSAA), which brings together Zimbabweans who have either lived, studied or participated in exchange programmes to the US and now resident in Zimbabwe, has called for support of programmes that use arts and culture to promote healing and tolerance in the country.

ZUSAA, which was established in 2009, currently has a membership of over a 1,000 alumni who have skills in different sectors ranging from business, government, non-profit organizations, trade unions, arts and culture among many other professions.

According to the ZUSAA National Coordinator, Michael Mabwe, the organization was formed to ensure that the skills and expertise of Zimbabweans who have been to the US are used for national development.

“We realized that after benefiting from rare experiences abroad, there was a need to continue with some of the concepts learned while in the US. Hence, the need for a platform which brings these leaders together and use their collective effort to give back to the various sectors in Zimbabwe,” said Mabwe, who is also a beneficiary of the US’s International Visitors’ Program on Promoting Tolerance through the Arts.

Mabwe, who is also a renowned human rights poet, said that artists have a big role to play in the national life of Zimbabwe.

“We want to see artists engaging more with the national question, particularly around promoting healing because as artists, they’re soul of the nation. With their art work – if done above political lines – artists can play a major role in diffusing tension that is currently being experienced locally. We want artists to be ambassadors of peace who in their collective effort can help spearhead an effective peace campaign,” he said.

Mabwe added that it is important for artists in the country to collaborate with the Organ on National Healing as well as the Church and Civil Society Forum to promote national healing.

“If the country is bleeding, there can be no development that can take place. Therefore, it means that we cannot improve the lives and livelihoods of our people. Political parties must put the needs of the general populace first before their narrow political ends,” said Mabwe.

“People limit the idea of national healing to political violence yet there are a number of sectors in our society that need  healing, apart from politics. From our industry, our education sector, our tourism, our politics among others, there is a need for healing to take place so that Zimbabwe can reclaim its status as a peaceful, and progressive country amongst the global family,” he said.

Mabwe said that ZUSAA will continue to contribute to different national processes by utilizing the broad skills base within its membership.

Digital artist opens new avenues

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

INNOCENT Fungurani, aka, Answer, who is pioneering digital art in Zimbabwe revealed that he is on a mission to put the country on the global arts map.

Fungurani (23), who recently showcased his digital works at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) in an exhibition titled “Beyond Boundaries” said that his art is merely a dialect to communicate issues of social significance.

The works he exhibited were extracts from an ambitious journal project that he is currently working on entitled, “Superstition.” His works have a surreal, avant-garde, experimental and an almost dreamy metaphysical quality that speak in a way that language cannot convey.

Fungurani, who is a volunteer art teacher at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, said that he has always had a fascination for computers from a young age and always sought for ways to be creative around them using the most basic software.

“I define digital art as any art which is created through the medium of  technology be it cellphones, digital cameras or computer webcams. I find this really fascinating because computing systems are fast becoming more accessible, cheaper and efficient in Zimbabwe,” said Fungurani is also a spoken word poet and painter.

Fungurani revealed that he is inspired by everything around him, including the urban vibe, people, architecture and public spaces, culture and language.

“I believe my generation of digital artists is one of many that will emerge out of Zimbabwe. Digital art has greater potential to influence society because many of our spaces are becoming computerized. People also have the need to consume art is the same way that they consume commands at work,” he said

The artist, who was awarded the top poetry prize for the US Public Affairs’ Black History Month poetry slam, said that art for him has been a process of constant evolution towards self-knowledge.

“I was first fascinated by language until I felt that I needed to find other forms of expression to convey ideas that language could not easily express. Due to the some social taboos around language, I felt limited to express on issues such as sexuality, politics and religion,” he said.

“That is how I discovered that images could portray controversial ideas is a more effective way, and communicate to a larger number of people, including the illiterate.”

As a result of this realization, Fungurani said he took to painting and colour before he discovered the field of computerized art.

Fungurani has already made a significant mark on the arts scene in Zimbabwe through highly, innovative projects that have involved many merging young artists. In 2009, he co-founded Kreative Activists Overturning Society (KAOS) with hip hop poetess and filmmaker, Cynthia Marangwanda.

As part of his social contribution, Fungurani said his organization is currently planning a major festival of alternative arts expression that will be held early next year.

“Zimbabwe has been starved of alternative voices; society has become dependent on state and corporate media, yet these are mouth pieces of the rich and powerful. That’s why KAOS will hold a festival dedicated to alternative forms of expression. We are working to create a platform to show case different dynamic and radical art forms,” he said.

The Narrow Path

Out in the woods, a narrow path juts out of the blankness

And snakes underneath shadows of thorn trees

Into a hidden valley –

It looks clean and swept

As if many feet have journeyed upon it

In search of God-knows

That which exists beyond the realm of the transient present

A search out of the frozen reality of being

The path closes at my feet,

And for some reason I wish I was the moon

Free to awaken dark azures

Beyond the thorn trees, I suddenly see the path opens widely

Yet, I stand still stuck in the whip lashes of forbidden pleasures

Reveling in endless supplies of still waters

That atrophy a quest within

And reduces me to a scarecrow

The ordinary path I choose wrinkles on

Till a grave appears, and swallows a dream never lived

A faith never practiced

A vision that only hung in the unseen like neglected biltong

Stooping, afraid of the thorns –

Fearing the venom of purgation

To rid the sediment collected within.

I creep till the darkness gathers

And everything remains the same like yesterday’s dream

upon this path

upon this path, angels appear dressed in rags that sag and stink like rotten shoes. we cringe when we meet them, and count their words for nothing. yet gently the angels whisper as they limp by our side, and complain of a backache born of past regret. slowly they seek to build within our bones a new faith to heal the wounded words that spill out of hearts like an old habit. so, though, to the heavens we look for miracles, right by our side, the angels whisper sweet words that can makes rise again. if only we could listen, we would hear what they have to say.

After the Rain

After the rain, which now clots the ground, she jumps out of her shell: gazes into the depth of her soul and grows roots that run haywire, till she connects again.

 

She finds a watery burble, and marvels at the passing images of her life (including the lost times) and how she tried to live in the thin veneer between dark and light.

 

She yearns for the wings of youth, soft and tender, and full of dreams that lacked fear.

 

As the rainbow in the horizon curls outward, she dashes with the full strength of her bones, naked of ambition and desire and dreams of the future.

 

Feeling a little faint, she looks to her sides, and sees it: a sprout of a new wing.

 

Faith mounts within her loins as her wings unfurl.

 

And suddenly, she rises.

 

O, how she rises with a grace so swift towards the single-eyed star high in the azure.