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Tiwani Contemporary is pleased to present Gareth Nyandoro’s third exhibition with the gallery.
Ruwa furthers Gareth Nyandoro's explorations of Zimbabwe, drawing inspiration from the rapidly changing urban and cultural panorama of the country. Working across drawing, printing, painting, sculpture and installation, Nyandoro finds constant inspiration in the country of his birth and its people.
What can occur when labor and survival play muse? The work of artist Gareth Nyandoro reveals the particularities and strategies of commercial life in Harare, the capital of the African country of Zimbabwe where the artist studied and currently, lives and works.
In the last two decades, the country has undergone dramatic economic shifts as agriculture and certain industries have collapsed and shrunk. Over the years, its informal sector has grown exponentially and is now the biggest in Africa - accounting for at least 60% of the country’s economic activity. Around 90% of the country's workforce is employed in this sector.
Here, they eke out their lives hand-to-mouth, hustling and making-do as hawkers and vendors in flea markets, cottage industries, car parks amidst temporary, improvised architecture and hand-rendered signages. While these petty traders provide immediate visual information to Nyandoro, the artist also considers their informal labor closer to a deft expression of artmaking and suggests a fraternal connection with them redolent of the atelier.
“I have always been fascinated with how vendors occupy, display, and arrange their wares in public spaces. They create colorful collages. In a way, they have created a sketch for me, which I transfer to paper collages. When I was growing up, vending was there but in a conservative way. Now it has turned out to be an art among the vendors as they compete for space and visibility through creative displays and even go to the extent of using megaphones and dance to lure customers. These are all elements being used in the contemporary art scene, like performance and sound art,” said the artist in 2016.
The artist likened the efforts of the country's informal workers to a parallel visual culture akin to a large-scale, open-air exhibition. “It becomes another form of art that people can easily absorb and connect with and without necessarily going to the gallery to see art. It is available everywhere, on trees, walls, residential gates. All these combined in the same place become a series of artworks that tell a story of struggle and persistence to survive,” says Nyandoro.
Many of the other works in the exhibition have been produced using the artist’s unique kucheka-cheka technique which he developed from his training in printmaking. Derived from etching and using sharp blades, Nyandoro draws onto large pieces of paper and sponges ink onto the surface before removing the top layer of paper with tape. Only the ink that is trapped within the deep paper cuts remains visible, along with coils of scrap paper, which Nyandoro often collages onto the work or leaves sprinkled on the floor as indicative of his own labor-intensive process.
Zimbabwe like many other countries around the world faces uncertainty and informal workers in such countries in the Global South are at greater risk. A recent UN report warns that nearly 1.6 billion people employed in the informal economy, or nearly half the global workforce face the loss of their livelihoods owing to ongoing lockdowns. As the lives of these workers remain in flux, Nyandoro’s work draws attention to and elevates their work with verve, refinement and poetry and endows them with dignity, visibility, status and ultimately, importance.
Perhaps Nyandoro is humbly reminding us that these workers are after all true artists too?
The exhibition is accompanied by a new 96-page colour monograph on the artist’s work. Published by Anomie Publishing, the book features contributions by Adelaide Blanc and Sean O’Toole.