Back in August, I had the pleasure of viewing the one-night only ABANTU Exhibition hosted by local creative and Zimbabwean born, Albertina Thabisani Ncube. The event gathered photographic works from Zimbabwean artists that captured the spirit of Zimbabwe and Africa from the personal perspectives of each photographer.
‘As a young Zimbabwean creative currently living in Australia, a western world, I finally understood the opportunity that’s in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole. Every individual I interviewed is part of a much larger picture, they’re defining their country’s creative scene. They’re setting the foundation, and that in itself is powerful.’ – Albertina Thabisani Ncube
The event was intimate, sleek and laid bare, allowing the work to speak for itself. Located in a warehouse with live performances from local, young artists, the event boasted an upscale yet underground vibe that felt more like a gig than an exhibition. Despite the chilled and reflective atmosphere, the evening had an educational as well as an entertainment value. In a discussion, Albertina described how she wanted to ‘put Africans on the map in Australia’ by promoting artists and their work. The event aimed to facilitate a space where young African artists can showcase their unique perspectives.
It was hard to pick a favourite piece as each photograph conveyed a powerful stance. For example, these images from Takunda Augustine Chipara called Freedom and Mahogany encompass the theme of power, ‘the need for it and the journey of attaining it’. Specifically, Freedom stood out for me as Chipara explained its meaning:
‘…even though we have managed to go from walking behind the horses of our slave owners with our hands and feet chained, to sitting on the horses’ back, [our] hands are still tied, we still don’t have everything that they had and yet we’re expected to still be able to maintain balance and stability…’
In the midst of the recent Black Lives Matter protests and movement across the globe, it is important to slow down and listen to stories from the Black community. This is evident in the ABANTU Exhibition, where each photograph explores resilience and acceptance in the Zimbabwean and wider African culture. This can be seen in Zash Chinhara’s pieces, entitled Divergence/Disrespect and Duty, which deal with the inner-conflicts of ancestry, modernity and the self.
‘…as a young Zimbabwean man trying to figure out what sort of relationship I want to have with my culture… It is a difficult balancing act, trying to weigh the value of generational wisdom against innovation and new ideas needed to stay competitive in a rapidly changing world.’
Another powerful piece touched on a lighter note. The importance and strength of femininity was seen through Tinashe Charleson’s work called Femininity/Beauty/Reflection. Here the bright, sun-soaked image conveys a message of virality and openness. Charleson puts it best:
‘…with the softness and gentleness of a mother but with the strength of a god. The photo series explores and celebrates the essence of being an African goddess beaming with strength and tranquillity.’
Abantu means ‘people’ in Zulu and Ndebele language, and this is the perfect way to describe what this exhibition meant. It was about the people of Zimbabwe, coming together with the people of Perth. The artists aimed to capture the intricacies of African culture in a modern world but also in personal frameworks. Keep an eye out for more events and strides of ingenuity from Albertina, as she will no doubt carve out a name for herself amongst the Australian creative industry.
Explore these artists: