06. 02. 2020 – 07. 03. 2020
SMAC Gallery is pleased to present Chirema Chine Mazano Chinotamba Chakazendama Madziro Part 2, a solo exhibition by Wallen Mapondera.
Chirema Chine Mazano Chinotamba Chakazendama Madziro is a Shona phrase referring to the various ways the subaltern navigate hardships (Ureke and Washaya, 2016) using creative solutions as survival tactics. Through this exhibition Mapondera looks to packaging as a tool for survival in an economically depressed country. He acknowledges his country of birth and home, Zimbabwe, as a place associated with—and often simplified to—hyperinflation, unemployment and poverty. He traces the use of found objects in art making as an immediate reaction to one’s environment, following a shift away from conventional materials.
Already crippled by a collapsed currency, the economic crisis of the year 2000 saw a rise in the continued depletion of the workforce, with a mass migration of people seeking a better life elsewhere. This left informal vending as one of the only options for those who did not have the option of relocation. It was one of the few ways forward—people began buying and reselling goods as a means of survival. Although there were legitimate spaces such as Mupedzanhamo, a market area in Mbare, Harare, there was not enough room to accommodate everyone. This, in conjunction with the high cost of shop rentals, led to vendors setting up pop-up markets on the city center pavements, marking the beginning of constant conflict between vendors and police.
The country continued to deteriorate rapidly, and from 2002 onwards, sanctions were imposed. The climax of the meltdown came in 2004, bringing food shortages and a lack of medication in hospitals. In 2005, a mass of informal spaces arose, including homes and businesses, which took over open swamp land that had been kept clear of construction by the municipality. Sewer systems gave up due to the overload from the growing cities, and a lack of maintenance. The absence of routine refuse collection resulted in outbreaks of cholera. When the point of no food or fuel in the country arrived, art-making or any activity not involving basic needs was considered a luxury.
Mapondera’s use of found objects was prompted by a clean-up campaign launched as a response to this disarray. ‘Operation Murambatsvina’ or ‘Operation Restore Order’ was carried out by the government as a response to the disorganised settlement in urban areas. Muramba translates in English to “one who rejects” and tsvina to “filth”. It involved the removal of illegal structures, leaving many homeless and without a source of income. What tipped the scale, was the demolition graders with armed riot police in tow—for ‘protection’. Ironically, Operation Murambatsvina impacted the already fragile economy, revealing that the informal sector had formed the most part of the remaining economy (Musoni, 2010).
In 2019, Operation Murambatsvina occurred again. Sifting through the wreckage, Mapondera found an eleven meter piece of tent, which forms the basis for the artwork Kudzoka
Kumba. According to the artist, the condition of the tent reflects that of the country—although ragged, it is still somewhat intact. In sections, he has mended the tent, stitching patches over holes. The mending is a symbolic gesture to the gentle nurturing and rebuilding that is taking place in his country, like moss slowly growing over jagged rocks—softening them while creating a place for rest and recovery. Perhaps it is also a continuation of what came before—a survival tactic of nurture, mending and reshaping. Kudzoka Kumba translates in English to ‘returning home’, referring to how Zimbabweans in the diaspora always find a reason to go back home.
“Home can have multiple meanings and at times I stammer to respond when I am asked ‘how is home?’ Although I always respond ‘home is fine’, it makes me question the word ‘home’. Where is home? What is it that makes it a home? Beyond where one stays, eats and sleeps, at times I feel like home is who you are.” (Mapondera, 2019)
“Having all these thoughts of what defines a home, I came to the conclusion that home does not mean the same thing to all people, it is a place and a multifaceted idea.” (Mapondera, 2019)
For Mapondera, a sense of home is dependent on freedom of movement within a country. He describes it as being able to move freely without being asked for identification particulars. This freedom of movement, and sense of home comes through strongly in the materiality of his works. Emphasis is placed on the importance of his relationship to the materials used. If there is no relationship, he feels he is merely creating representations of things—devoid of deeper meaning. In many ways, Mapondera excavates meaning from found objects, staging a return to home by unearthing their history.
This text is an adaptation from the artist’s notes on the exhibition Chirema Chine Mazano Chinotamba Chakazendama Madziro Part 1.
Musoni, F., 2010. Operation Murambatsvina and the Politics of Street Vendors in Zimbabwe. J. South. Afr. Stud. 36, 301–317. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057070.2010.485786.
Ureke, O., Washaya, Y., 2016. Social commentary, subaltern voices and the alternative medium of Zimdancehall music: Unpacking the music of Winky D and Sniper Storm. Muziki 13, 68–88. https://doi.org/10.1080/18125980.2016.1182383.