From Namibia With Love [interview] (allAfrica.com)

The National Gallery of Zimbabwe is an iconic institution in Southern Africa. It has successfully managed to transition itself from being a vestige of colonial dominance to being an accessible cultural institution in the forefront of promoting Zimbabwean Contemporary Arts. The Gallery uses all opportunities to strengthen its position in SADC and tries to attend as many arts platforms as possible in its quest to galvanise the region for greater visibility. Last week, the Chief Curator and Deputy Director Raphael Chikukwa went to Namibia to attend a symposium on contemporary African art which was organised by John Mafungejo Art Centre. Below is what he had to say about the trip.

How was the trip to Namibia?

The Trip to Namibia was very fruitful in terms of expanding our network as the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.

What was the purpose for the trip and how beneficial was it for the National Gallery of Zimbabwe?

Well the trip was to attend a Symposium on Contemporary African Art and it was organized by John Mafungejo Art Center. This is a centre which was named in honor of one of Namibia’s veteran artists, John a print maker who died years ago. This trip was also to strengthen our cultural relations that back dates to many years ago. It was also an opportunity to share with other participants who attended the symposium that includes, their National Archive team, National Museums team, Museum Association team, artists, University of Namibia team, College of Art Team and the visiting speakers, who included DandaJurdjmek from Kenya and Mike Van Graan from South Africa.

What is the relationship between Zimbabwean and Namibian art?

Our relationship with the Namibia art scene is natural because as Africans we are one family, and all we need to do is to strengthen it. Thulipamwe is another international workshop that has been bringing us together and many other interventions that have been seeing artists like Chiko Chazunguza exhibiting in Namibia.

Thulipamwe means “we are together” and is an independently funded artists project coordinated by the Thulipamwe Arts Trust in Namibia. The trust is organised under the sponsorship of the Visual & Performing Arts Department of the University of Namibia and is affiliated to the Triangle Network of Workshops. It was initiated by Sir Robert Lauder.Dzimbanhete has been collaborating a lot with Papa Hishishi Shikongeni, a Namibian Print maker. Soon we will host a tour of Namibia University Art department to see ways in which they can collaborate with the National Gallery of Zimbabwe School of Visual Arts and Design.

Following this visit, what can you say about the Zimbabwean Art?

Zimbabwean Art is growing like any other African nation, but we need to do more in educating those that do not appreciate art. One of the things we talked about in Namibia, was about the art markets in Africa as a whole. We need to grow our art market and audience. Building markets is what we need to focus on.

What is the significance of this visit to Zimbabwean artists?

We must expect more exchange like before and as nations with strong political relations we need to harness this. I have always said we meet more in Europe than we do in the continent, and this is sad. We should meet more in Africa.

It is my hope that we will be able to realise these cultural exchange programmes so much that we can grow our creative sector. We seem to enjoy more western movies, music, dance, fashion, food and many other things above our own cultural values. Soft diplomacy is what we need to do more.

Imagine a Namibian Cultural Centre where you can learn Namibian Languages, music, dance and art in Harare. In return, we can have a Zimbabwe Culture Centre in Namibia or in Europe where people can learn Zimbabwean Music, Culture, Languages and Zimbabwean Sculpture, which is popular all over the world.

What advice can you give to our artists, in regard to what you saw in Namibia?

Well we have a lot to learn from each other and Namibia artists are willing to collaborate with us as what used to happen in the past.