Home » Arts & Culture » Design Zim – the Traditional Kitchen [column]

The National Gallery of Zimbabwe — in Harare, situated on Julius Nyerere with its back to Harare Gardens, is an airy space full of light, high windows and white walls. When I visited tha place on Sunday morning I was almost alone — except for a prominent local lawyer appreciating the art and buying a couple of books in the Gallery shop.

Luckily we do have some patrons of the arts amongst our professionals who support art, artists and our institutions — because otherwise — we would be losing much of our cultural heritage.

Currently on exhibition is the Shona Traditional Kitchen. Curated by Gallery Director Doreen Sibanda and Saki Mafundikwa (founder of ZIVA — Zimbabwe’s first college of Graphic Design), the exhibition pays tribute to local design traditions and appreciates the domestic heart space. A beautiful kitchen is re-created in the gallery – its curved plaster wall polished to a high silver black gloss, patterned rows of decorated shelves loaded with traditional and modern cooking pots, enamel and china plates and mugs.

Domestic artefacts — stools, grinding stones, mats and baskets — bear testimony to the connection and continuum between past and present. The traditional kitchen is the heart of the home –the mother’s space — where food is prepared, where there is warmth, shelter and comfort around the fire, where stories are told. The creative expression of the individual woman holds sway, showcasing her household implements, her pots, her means of feeding and nurturing her family.

This built kitchen structure forms a backdrop to a show of contemporary design of ceramics, furniture, fabrics and jewellery. A g feeling of hearth and home is created — bringing a sense of the womb-like warmth of the traditional kitchen into this bright upstairs space- and giving inspiration for our own homes, creativity and cooking.

Part of what keeps the Gallery going is FOG – Friends of the Gallery – a group of tireless art and culture enthusiasts who continue to invest time and energy into raising funds for gallery maintenance and to support talented artists. This week they organised an Art Auction, hosted by the Italian Ambassador at his residence.

Themed around waste as treasure — rubbish ruled the day! We were invited to dress in something recycled and some imaginative costumes were on display. The Ambassador looked very stylish in a suit made from La Lucie hessian coffee bags while Harry Davies of Harare News had hastily fashioned a tie out of one of his newspapers!

The winner was artist Lynn Barrie in a shimmering jacket made from what looked like plastic spoons but could well have graced a catwalk!

Prominent artists had painted rubbish bins with fabulous designs – dancers, enamel pots, animals, faces. Sponsored by different corporates and individuals, these bins will go to the City to brighten up city spaces and hopefully keep some litter off the streets. Much of the art also had a recycled feel with some amazing sculptures made entirely of found materials.

My favourite was a huge flat fish constructed from pieces of shoes, with a jaw made from old enamel plates. A filmmaker visiting from Joburg – known as a dealer in oil as well as art – snapped up several pieces – finding the prices a bargain.

Guests enjoyed coffee and cakes, smoked salmon pancakes, tiny sandwiches, grapes and cookies and during the auction, home-fired pizzas were offered on wooden boards by Embassy staff. (What would an Italian residence be without a pizza oven?) Kids got prizes for their artworks, adults got to dress up and appreciate some interesting art. Hope it all helps keep the Gallery alive. Traditional Kitchen exhibition runs till mid June.

Source : Financial Gazette

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