Kudzanai Chiurai / State of the Nation / 2011
In award-winning artist Kudzanai Chiurai’s State of the Nation, the notion of “state” is explored as a utopia and an action, a state of mind as well as a status. This new exhibition will take place at two venues: a warehouse on Gwi Gwi Mrwebi Street in Newtown and Goodman Gallery Projects at Arts on Main. Between the two venues, the show features photographic prints, drawings, large oil paintings, video, sound installation and performance with a focus on youth culture. State of the Nationproposes fresh ways of looking at the socio-politics of Africa today. It explores the African condition by juxtaposing the past and the present of a continent in the grip of violent civil wars.
The title State of the Nationis intended to explore aspects of a constructed African state that has just been ravaged by conflict. “On a continent that has experienced more violent conflict than any other, this exhibition follows an individual’s narration of events that lead up to the inaugural speech by the first supposedly democratically elected prime minister. This leader styled along many of our existing African leaders, retells the history of a people from another time, but still Africa’s time…” says the artist.
With Melissa Mboweni as curator of the project and collaborations with photographer Jurie Potgieter and singers Thandiswa Mazwai and Zaki Ibrahim, Chiurai references child soldiers, African liberation movements, and civil wars. He tracks the similarities in the societal, political and ideological fabric of states in tumultuous times of transition. Notions of public and private are raised in performances taking place in the streets of Newtown and in basements with limited access. A sound installation scores the gallery experience. Representations of spectacle perpetuated by the media are brought to question. Scenes captured in photographs, drawings and paintings play into popular hip-hop imagery.
In a similar style to previous bodies of work (such as his Dying to be Men series of 2009), Chiurai’s constructed environments are enticing and seductive but explore very real casualties of African independence and democracy and the effects of globalisation on war. Chiurai’s nation asks, “If we could write our history and chart our futures as we please, who would we be?”