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Gillian Rosselli, an educationist, has been a major visual artist in Zimbabwe equally comfortable in both two- and three-dimensional work for a very long time. Though a rare sight in public, her work widely expresses what you hardly see or hear about happenings in deep rural life, farms and urban areas. Her precise use of various materials especially in her mixed media work that comprises of found objects, own made modules, soils of colour and texture amongst other things and the sheer size to suit specific work is phenomenal.

This time the prestigious Zimbabwe Heritage annual exhibitions’ multi-award winner is in the public eye presenting her solo multi-media exhibition themed “Belonging” at Gallery Delta Foundation for Art and the Humanities at 110 Livingston Avenue, Greenwood Park, Harare.

The exhibition narrates the plight of our country’s children, widely the orphaned especially in various foster homes and in rural areas.

Officially opened by Reza Hossaini, United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative in Zimbabwe and sponsored by the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust in partnership with Sweden and the European Union delegation in Zimbabwe, the amazing show had record crowds in attendants complimenting its numerous exceptional work.

In her statement, she noted: “Belonging – to fit in, be suited to, have a rightful place, have a home. These definitions of the word have become my fixation. Where do we belong? The layers behind this simple word are infinite, complex and unfathomable in a country such as this.”

She expresses her touching feeling about the plight of orphans.

“We closed our eyes in pain as more and more of our children became orphaned. It is this question of belonging that has consumed me these orphaned children who suffer from a disconnection from any sense of home, to feel a sense of home, any rightful place they belong.

“I journeyed with these children, walking alongside them in their daily lives, painting their perceptions of belonging. The only place they belong is in an orphanage. They struggle to form any identity, to have a home, to feel a sense of belonging.

“How can a child belong in a place woven with hopelessness? The chatter and chaos of children cannot disguise the fact that if one belongs inside these walls, it is only because there is nowhere else to go.

“Belonging is thus problematic for these children it is a word crippled with the unavoidable reminder that they have nothing. My exhibition has been shaped by this devastating loss for the children of our nation”.

Rosselli has more than 80 pieces in her current show. “Every Child” is an elongated 160 by 44 centimetre portrait format mixed media work with masterful execution in semi abstraction of imagery with an orphaned child’s head right in the middle of the upper width of the first quarter.

The child is seated in a pitiful side view posture facing away with hands folded underneath the knees in a faded lemon green short sleeved top at the bottom right of the head. The child seems to sit on a washy aged wall with free hand inscriptions from end to end of the width first in a faded grey four line paragraph.

The bottom half is dominated by photographic images of our country’s natural landscape and a bit of its human act to sum up the piece.

In more accommodative space Rosselli is one such artist who has the habit of bringing the outside inside to unprecedented scales.

In the past amongst her various earth installations was one titled “The Road Less Travelled” which she exhibited at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare under the theme “Women of Passion” held in collaboration with the International Images Film Festival for Women.

The piece brought to the floor some glowing earth tones of a road in rural Zimbabwe, like many other roads was a white strip in a brown country flanked by charcoal, which represented the burnt areas of grass after veld fire.

In addition, there were vast spaces of earth on the ground, the kind of random stones which would be seen by a river bed and an odd stick like one fallen from a tree.

For two days she and her two assistants, either carefully placed or randomly flung the components of the piece onto the ground so that assembled together they formed the road and its immediate environment. This is the kind of road that has been part of the Zimbabwean landscape over which cattle wander slowly at their own volition and swing their tails to keep away the summer flies.

A road over which people have walked for miles without complaint when walking was the norm to visit your neighbour, or make a trip to the clinic, or for women to go for water at the well.

So Rosselli, whose work has always dealt in great detail with the beauty of nature, has departed to narrate the gloomy scenario of part of Zimbabwe’s future generation. The magnificent show will shut its doors to the public at the end of the month.

Source : The Herald

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