Regional photographers look at society

The exhibition will run until July 31 under the theme Beautiful Africa.

Countries represented are Sudan, Namibia, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Every year a number of new photographers are launched. Gwanza, a photographic exhibition’s thrust is to expose photographers whose works appeal to a wider audience. Gwanza therefore, engages Zimbabwean photographers, platforms them with their international counterparts.

This year, Botswana photographers have been provided with the opportunity to collaborate with others something they had not done before.

Since last year, Gwanza has proved to be one of the most popular and accessible events on the local art calendar with over 400 people attending the opening.

The exhibition has become a regular feature of both National Gallery of Zimbabwe’s annual exhibitions calendar as well as an annual highlight of the activities of the visual arts community of Zimbabwe and beyond.

Through Gwanza, local and international photographers are able to challenge and redefine people’s traditional perception of photography, its role and function.

Works for Gwanza, a thematic show of photographs explore a theme and in so doing investigate and interrogate notions of national identity coming from different countries.

Last year’s theme was “Movement”. Calving Dondo, the curator and distinguished photographer of the exhibition said the theme showed changes in the position of something, be it notions, beliefs, struggles, philosophies, ideals, the animate or inanimate.

The photographers during last year’s show explored the idea of movement in ways poetical, philosophical, emotional, objective and subjective. Photographers at that exhibition managed to move into different times, different topics, spaces in which to live out lives, different circles, all this made apparent through photography.

Names like Tsvangirayi Mkwazhi, David Brazier, Calvin Dondo and others emerged and encouraged photographers to exhibit their work.

According to Dondo: “Photography is for everyone, when we see a photograph we see ourselves, our situations, our physical environment. And photography most graphically shows us the global world, the world far away from us, yet brings the world closer to us. The camera has a perspective eye, it both sees through what is happening. The photograph both captures and freezes moments, captures features of time and place, articulates our relationship to the various spaces we occupy and call our own.”

Photographs with their powerful sense of mood and place and sheer density of subject are clearly more defined in the 2006 Gwanza exhibition whose theme is “Beautiful Africa.”

According to Dondo, the beauty of Africa is realised in many ways. There is the natural beauty of African countries, the beauty of nature’s attributes, its mountains, rivers, waterfalls, trees, flowers, animal and bird life.

He says there is beauty of the African people, evidenced not only in physical appearance but in their dignity and pride of their African heritage.

What we see in the exhibition is also the beauty of African countries despite economic hardships and tearing social issues. All these kinds of beauty are manifest in the photographs in Gwanza 2006. A feature of this exhibition are photographs which are the result of a workshop held in Botswana by the Botswana Society of the Arts between April 10 and May 2006.

Algerian photographer Bruno Boudjelal who facilitated the workshop encouraged participants to freshly discover aspects of photography and incorporate them in future work.

In this exhibition there are photographs from Zimbabwean photographers and cameo exhibitions from students at the Harare Polytechnic and Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts (Ziva). There is works from a French photographer living in Zimbabwe which brings photography close to painting. Gwanza 2006 therefore invites people to appreciate the value of photograph as art and a record of how life is lived and experienced.

July 2006
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