popular
Still from We Live in Silence (2017). Photo courtesy of Kudzanai Chiurai.

Kudzanai Chiurai's Mixed Media Series Challenges What It Means To Live in a Post-Colonial Society

The Zimbabwean contemporary artist recently showed his thought provoking exhibition, 'We Live in Silence' at this year's Dak'Art Biennale.

Kudzanai Chiurai is a Zimbabwean contemporary artist and activist who addresses issues as colonialism, corruption, xenophobia and democracy through his work.

Chiurai uses such mixed media as drawing, painting, videography and photography to tell his stories. His theatrical pieces reach widespread audiences across the world.


When applauded for being the first black student to graduate from South Africa's University of Pretoria with a bachelor's degree in fine art, he is not content. He says this shouldn't be an accomplishment and is revelatory of a flawed space in which people, resembling him, have seemingly been closed out. "Education should be accessible to all," he adds.

It quickly becomes evident that he possesses a fervor to both question his surroundings and spark conversation. At the onset of his career, Chiurai painted portraits and landscapes. When asked how he became an artistic activist, he laughingly says, "What you think you'll learn in uni never quite ends up that way, it's the best way is to broaden your horizons." While in university, he created works centered around Robert Mugabe, his country's prime minister at the time, that would ruffle feathers and bring about his self-imposed exile. Those works would be the beginning an aesthetic distinguishable by its social commentary.

Today, he's based in his native country and has made the riveting exhibition We Live in Silence (2017), from which a video was displayed at Dak'Art Biennale in L'ancien palais de justice. The exhibition is the culmination of a three-part series beginning with 2011's Revelation and 2016's Genesis focused on alternative "colonial futures."

Still from We Live in Silence (2017). Photo courtesy of Kudzanai Chiurai.

Chiurai stages a colonial history and rejects Africans thinking, speaking and understanding language like their colonizers. He even goes as far as placing women in the forefront of our liberation. Where history is often told from the perspective of the winner, Chiurai reflects on the triumphs of his own with powerful iconography.

The overall series is a response to 1967's French-Mauritanian film Soleil O centered on a black immigrant yearning to find himself and a sense of home in Paris post leaving Senegal. In the film, the main character is so dehumanized by his white counterparts that he goes mad. He faces rejection, humiliation and disinterest. Soleil O fills its viewer with a visceral sense of discomfort and provides a very real look at a reality still experienced by modern day french immigrants.

"We are living in post-colonial societies," Chiurai says. "Afro futures don't exist because of colonialism. We live in colonial futures that are synchronized with capital." African nations, though liberated from the Western world's grip on their land, are still shaped by colonial social and political institutions. These institutions still govern how we live our lives. Currently, we are called "to integrate ourselves in a system that doesn't suit us and abuses us," he says. Chiurai dissects the aforementioned with collages comprised of images from the past, present and future. He places different aspects of our history into one moment in time.

Art provides the rather reclusive Chiurai with a voice. Despite not having social media or a website, he celebrates dwelling in a world where his art is placed alongside that of his peers in places like South Africa's Goodman Gallery. "We no longer have private lives. We don't have 'my,' 'I' [or] 'that.' We have 'we' and 'us,'" he says. "Being on platforms where other artists are is 'us.' Being a part of other conversations. It's not singular, it's plural. In the same way we have not singular identities but plural identities. My work reflects this. It's a shift that is taking place."

If his images have one message, I hold it is this: he is an African championing the continent and propelling its overall culture forward. We'll be sure to follow him as he works on a film and partakes in shows in Sweden and Germany.

Audrey Lang is an alumna of Northeastern University and a Boston-based site merchandiser. A surveyor of life who's enamored with all things fashion, art and Africa, keep up with her on Instagram and Tumblr.

News Brief
Photo still courtesy of Vlisco&co.

Nigerian Filmmaker Dafe Oboro Tells the Lagos Hustle Story in His Vivid Fashion Film for Vlisco&co

"A Beautiful Struggle" is Vlisco&co's latest collaboration where Dafe Oboro shows us the beauty of the grind in his home city.

Vlisco&co; continues to lend African creatives a platform to tell their unique stories while incorporating designs using the vibrant wax prints we all love.

With their latest collaboration, the brand tapped Nigerian filmmaker Dafe Oboro—the mind behind the fashion film A Beautiful Struggle featuring designs by Papa Oyeyemi and Abiola Olusola.

The film is a portrait showing what the Lagos hustle looks like and the beauty in the midst of it all from Oboro's perspective. We follow Smart Song—an aspiring musician hailing from a small-town—who lands in a psychadelic Lagos to follow his passion of music and being a star by any means necessary.

Keep reading... Show less
Audio
Nonso Amadi. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Nonso Amadi Is Making His Unique Blend of Afro-Fusion

We speak with the Toronto-based Nigerian artist about his new self-produced EP, Free, which includes features from Mr Eazi and Simi.

Nonso Amadi is a Toronto-based musician cooking up his own blend of afro-fusion by mixing influences from his Nigerian background with elements of RnB, soul, pop and much more.

His releases and production over recent years have made Nonso one of the standout acts from a new wave of young Nigerian artists experimenting and pushing boundaries on both sides of the Atlantic.

The 23-year-old artist just dropped his latest release, Free, a 6-song EP which features appearances from Mr Eazi on lead single "Go Outside" and Simi, who provides vocals on "Better." The EP was entirely produced by Nonso himself, with a little help from British-Ghanaian producer Juls and AoD.

We spoke with Nonso Amadi during a visit to NYC about his genre-bending EP below.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Still from YouTube

Fuse ODG Launches #SelfieCypherChallenge With New Video Featuring Olamide, Joey B, Kwamz & Flava

The artist enlists some of West Africa's finest MCs for a one-of-a-kind music video.

Popular Ghanaian MC artist Fuse ODG is back with a new music video for his collaborative record "Cool Down."

The track features several rappers including Olamide, Flava, Joey B and Kwamz—who all take turns to deliver their own freestyles atop the song's salsa-inspired production. "You ain't on my level, so boo cool down," rhymes the artist on the catchy chorus.

For the music video, the artist took a creative approach, launching the #SelfieCypherChallenge, using vertical, self-recorded clips of each artist living their best lives as they perform their verses. The artists record themselves everywhere from fitting rooms, to the middle of the street the pyramids.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Image by Ofoe Amegavie.

This Stunning Photo Series Re-imagines What Cities Could Look Like in the Future

As Accra undergoes massive urbanization, buildings 'in limbo' are providing an alternative space for creatives and the youth.

Unfinished buildings are commonplace in Accra, Ghana, a city whose landscape is changing every single day. High-rise structures and concrete worlds are overtaking traditional neighborhoods and leaving urban spaces in a state of "limbo"⁠—the future of the city fossilized within the fragments of its past. One of these many unfinished buildings is an estate in the neighborhood of East Legon, and is now the site of a provocative art exhibition, the first of many that will be showcased in unfinished properties across Accra.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.