Home » Arts & Culture » A Touch of Art for the Neighbourhood [opinion]

Tired of complaining about how screwed up the system is? Maybe you can learn a thing or two from these two Bulawayo artists.

It’s easy to complain about inept governance, failures of regimes, poor service delivery and almost anything in Africa, Zimbabwe particularly, but sometimes you have to realise that it’s your community and if you don’t step up no one will.

Makokoba is the oldest townshipghetto in Zimbabwe and has long been feared as a home of violence, substance use and abuse, and every awful brush there is for a ghetto.

The lodgings there are usually two rooms: a living room and a bedroom, with ablution facilities outside the living quarters.

This was somewhat practical in colonial times when women and children were not allowed to live in the area. A visiting wife would need a pass otherwise the husband would see her and the children the next time he was in his rural home- most likely in the reserves where the blacks had been relegated to.

The township has dilapidated since independence, and in cruel irony, the government has named it a national heritage site, meaning, in the politest phraseology possible: it’s a human zoo.

But the people who live in there are not animals. On the contrary, they are as vibrant as the rainbow, and two artists decided it was time to let it show.

How often does someone ask to paint your wall for free?

With paint, they have decided to rejuvenate the ghetto.

The programme is called ‘free street-art in the community’, and takes visual art out of the gallery into the street.

The artists are known as Mother Tongue Colourz, and their collective work is found around the high density suburbs of Bulawayo.

The source of their chemistry is a mixture of graffiti, streetart and contemporary art.

There are eleven streets in Makokoba, and by the time they are done, the artists would like to have painted at least one wall on each of the streets.

It’s not easy, though. Moving around the township with the artists and a photographer I realised the people here have become very paranoid it’s hard to get a shot of someone as KB Mpofu and his DLSR camera will attest.

They approach with caution, a photographer is suspected of being anything from a tabloid journalist to a government agent. I feel this also necessitates a project like this one returning art to the people.

Art to the people

One of the artists, alias Kause263 says he was inspired by a friend who was subjected to physical abuse by her partner, and so chose to paint the female form around the walls.

Instead of a broken woman he chose to paint something more alive, and if one battered woman is a metaphor of a people, then let them see beauty instead of the scars.

His work in this project is all about vibrant colours that magnify the female characters he paints as a way -in his own words- of bringing out the glory of ‘ghetto women.’

The other half of the crew is ‘Lotus’, another visual artist who bases his work on monochrome style, where Kause263 paints the female form, he paints ‘monopodes’, he says these are beings that predate the human and reptilian races.

The patterns on the images are interestingly Ndebele, the people who make up a large part of the Makokoba community. In one piece particularly the one he is working on in the image below, depicting the evolution of society.

Using art to inspire

Lotus wishes his art will inspire people, by adding a little colour to the dull walls of the abodes, maybe a light will be ignited in them and help them reach higher aspirations.

And they just might. Members of the community are mostly welcoming to the project, some who came to watch the artists at work expressed their pride at having such talent among them and having the artists add value to their environment, relieving the constant eyesore that has become all too familiar.

There was of course the old lady who wasn’t too pleased and accused the artists of dirtying the walls before walking back into her abode.

Corporate funding?

The project would be a perfect gimmick for corporate sponsorship and donor funding, so I had to ask who was bankrolling it. “Us… ” says Kause263, giggling impishly, adding, “and our mothers.”

Well, silly me, how much does a bucket of paint cost? In retrospect it would have been insulting to be paid to spruce up one’s backyard. So dear reader, my question for you becomes: what can one achieve with enough creativity and love?

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Source : Waza