Arts + Culture

Zimbabwean Artist Virginia Chihota Brings Her Ghostly Matriarchs To London

Zimbabwean artist Virginia Chihota brings ghostly matriarchs to London's Tiwani Contemporary with her solo exhibition 'A Thorn In My Flesh.'

All images © Virginia Chihota, courtesy of Tiwani Contemporary, London

This month Zimbabwean mixed-media artist Virginia Chihota unveiled a new body of work focusing on the female form with A Thorn in my Flesh (munzwa munyama yangu). The show, which is currently on display at London's Tiwani Contemporary, marks Chihota's first solo European exhibition and features a selection of monoprints and drawings inspired by the artist's personal experiences with marriage and motherhood.

With A Thorn in my Flesh, the Chitungwiza-born, Tripoli-based printmaker makes use of a central subject, which appears several times throughout the show. The figure, a skeletal being with feminine attributes, bears flowers while enveloped in ghostly shrouds that range from deeply vivid to near translucent hues. These images, depicted in the pieces 'the root of the flower we do not know' (mudzi weruva ratisingazive), serve to highlight the subject's range of strengths, vulnerabilities, and anxieties.“The thorn represents the many weaknesses and negative situations in life," Chihota says of the show. "Yet in the right proposed time if we continue with our hope we will be released from the tension and pressures surrounding us. Weakness and strength cannot do without each other.”

Besides being a meditation on domesticity, female subjectivity and interpersonal relationships, Chihota's latest work contains allusions to religious and folkloric imagery as well. Chihota sometimes renders her figure with a halo reminiscent of popular depictions of Virgin Mary (who also appears bearing flowers), and the similarities between the artist's name and the venerated title given to the holy mother makes for a highly symbolic means of self-exploration.

A Thorn in my Flesh (munzwa munyama yangu) can be seen at Tiwani Contemporary in South London until February 7th.

Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.

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