Masimba Hwati

Instruments of Memory / Simbi dzeNdangariro

20.08.16 – 08.10.16


Instruments of Memory / Simbi dzeNdangariro is Zimbabwean artist Masimba Hwati’s first solo exhibition in South Africa and his first with SMAC Gallery. A multidisciplinary artist with a focus on sculpture, Hwati questions typical definitions and imagery associated with post-colonial societies, particularly on the African continent.

In Instruments of Memory, Masimba Hwati presents a unique collection of sculptural assemblages that intricately bind preconceived, often mistaken, ideas of ‘African’ and ‘Western’ imagery. Each artwork further investigates themes of ‘cultural symbiosis’ or the exchange between seemingly opposing cultures of stereotypical memetic traits. Hwati’s astute combinations of symbols and objects that are considered representative of endemically African cultures and more colonial-originating cultivations initiate this exchange.

As the title of the exhibition indicates, this new body of work grapples with the human experience of ‘memory’ and ‘energies’. Hwati draws on these seemingly abstract concepts through each of his found objects, many of which he considers culturally ‘traditional’ to his upbringing. Hwati physically alters and then re-imagines these objects by juxtaposing them and changing the socio-cultural space and context they occupy.

Masimba Hwati’s practice is primarily comprised of an in-depth relationship with symbols of his life experiences. His use of objects that are of a personal and cultural significance is what makes each work a collage of subjective representation within a collection of idiosyncratic interpretation. Hwati is a treasure hunter and his treasures are used and discarded objects – seemingly without value. This assumed ‘non-value’ is one of the many concepts that Hwati unceremoniously turns on its head, with the same gentle, sardonic humour exhibited by the early 20th century Dada-ists. Just as one hears whispers of the ‘readymade’ and reads of critics neatly boxing this artist and his practice into a prescribed ‘Afro-Dada or -Furturist’ category, Hwati thoroughly explains many of his personal associations with each component of his artwork. He makes clear that the objects before him are not just found objects, but artifacts.

Works in the Rinamanyanga Hariputirwe (2016) series are contextual combinations of specific thoughts and feelings. The English translation of this title; ‘That which has horns cannot be wrapped’ is a well-known Shona phrase that has an obvious literal association with the animal horns fixed to each artwork. However, perhaps less conspicuously, this title also alludes to the wheelbarrow handles attached to a festooned boxing bag filled with sand, communicating the experience of an attempt to move a load forward but being hindered by the load itself.

Antennas & Memes VI (2016), cradles a plastic, Taiwanese-made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toy, while simultaneously touting the horns of African buck and animal bones. The context of each of these elements is altered, either unexpectedly or quite predictably, by both it’s repositioning and it’s annexure.

Every object, item, medium or material in Hwati’s sculptures has been “conceptually diagnosed” and deemed fit to form part of the artist’s complex personal narrative, while simultaneously directing a collective experience. The Shona proverb; ‘Zvikomo zvemutunhu umwe zvinotambidzana mhute’, ties itself to Masimba Hwati’s Instruments of Memory, both in its meaning and its entangled translation. Loosely translated, the meaning reads; “mountains of the same range give each other mist”. Hwati interprets the meaning of this proverb as “influence is a result of proximity, and that all things are connected”. His understanding of the proverb offers viewers a starting point with which to approach this exhibition.

In its entirety, Instruments of Memory / Simbi dzeNdangariro displays undertones of Hwati’s experience and understanding of current socio-political circumstances in his home country as well as many other African countries. As opposed to a focus on particular issues, Hwati wrestles with the roots of feelings of unrest, support, disappointment and hope. Through what would appear to be an almost absurd conglomeration of unusual objects, Masimba Hwati is able to mine crucial meaning and a rare universal accessibility without shedding his individual and distinct heritage.

Masimba Hwati is a multidisciplinary artist with a focus on sculpture. His work questions prescribed definitions and imagery associated with various post-colonial societies, particularly on the African continent. Born in 1982 in Harare, Zimbabwe, he graduated from the Harare Polytechnic in 2003. Hwati presented his first solo exhibition; Facsimiles of Energy in 2011 at Gallery Delta – Foundation for Art and Humanities in Harare, Zimbabwe. Prior to that, his work formed part of the Harare Biennale at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in 2005. Notable group exhibitions include; Vibes, Pledges and Oracles at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare, in 2007; Colour Africa: Zeitgenössische Kunst Aus Simbabwe at the Kulturallmende in Munich, Germany and Food for Thought at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, both in 2011. In 2012, Hwati received an award for Multi Media – Tradition, Family and Religion, sponsored by the European Union. He also participated in Between the Sheets: 2012 Artists’ Books Exhibition at Gallery East in North Freemantle, Australia.

Following his solo exhibition Quantumlogik at Gallery Delta in Harare in 2014, Hwati was one of three artists selected for the Zimbabwean Pavilion exhibition; Pixels Of Ubuntu/Unhu, curated by Raphael Chikukwa, at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. Showing for the first time in South Africa, his work featured in the group exhibition TREK: Following Journeys at SMAC Gallery in Cape Town. Also in 2015, Hwati participated in the Zimbabwean Cultural Centre of Detroit (ZCCD) Artist Exchange programme in Detroit, USA and was an invited speaker at the Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series at the Penny. W Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, USA.

Masimba Hwati presented don’t worry, be happy, an exhibition for this year’s Cape Town Art Fair Special Projects section Tomorrows/Today, curated by Ruth Simbao and Azu Nwagbogu. Hwati’s presentation was subsequently selected as the winner for this section.

View artist page: Masimba Hwati