Home » General » Tragedy, Comedy – Faces of Mankind [opinion]

Africans have been synonymous with the use of facial expressions in the formation of traditional masks they wore during their dances, rituals and other sacred performances.

There were specialised artists who created them wonderfully close to and dependant on nature and close to their traditions.

Today contemporary artists have moved away from traditional materials in the making of masks of their own to the engagement of mostly man-made objects in keeping, however, with the tradition of the ancient African mask maker who would take the wood, feathers, bones and the pigments used by the late stone age artists and fashion them into a mask worn to appease deities and spirits.

In the ancient rich Greek culture the use of masks in their theatre which was the major expression of their tragedy and comedy dates as far back as 400 BC.

The ancient Greek theatre counselled them during their trying times and brought laughter for their exhilarating moments in time.

The best play forms were named “tragedy” which, in Greek, means “Goats Song’. Ancient Greek theatre is the source of Greek tragedy and comedy in which the theme of the current art exhibition, which was officially opened by the Ambassador of Greece to Zimbabwe Leonidas B. Contovounesios on June 24, 2014 at Gallery Delta Foundation for Art and the Humanities, emanated from.

In true Greek form the Gallery co-founded by Helen Lieros, a Zimbabwean of Greek origin herself and a major contributor to the Zimbabwean art scene undertook the task to transform the concepts and material of tragedy and comedy from the performing to the figurative arts.

A group of selected artists were challenged to imagine and create on the theme “Tragedy and Comedy – Faces of Mankind” that had a wide room for exploration and they did not disappoint.

They produced a body of artworks that responded in some way to what they see around them, and what they feel about what they see. During the official opening of the exhibition there was a unique art performance initiated by participant visual artist Admire Kamudzengerere in collaboration with four other street theatre performers.

The performance had enticing rhythmic choreography dancing to a soothing classical Greek sound whilst they swayed huge cardboard box masks of various expressions before a crowd with a sizable Greek community which included the Greek ambassador to Zimbabwe himself and a Greek philanthropist.

The Greeks were the brainchild and sponsors of the exhibition as well as the Swiss Embassy in Zimbabwe.

The art exhibition illustrated that artistic ideas have always ignored manmade demarcations and decisions. It showed that the world belongs to mankind as a whole. It no longer has professional diplomats as best representatives of their culture.

They have been replaced in this role by artists and intellectuals who have more direct, sincere and enduring channels of communication. Our world is a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those who think. There is only a thin line that separates tragedy, laughter and pain, which are often the two sides of our complex lives. It is up to the artist, therefore, in imitating life, to decide how he or she isolates, magnifies and projects its tragic and comic aspects.

Some of the exhibiting artists include Albert Wachi, Misheck Masamvu, Helen Lieros, Cosmas Shiridzinomwa, Arthur Azevedo, Portia Zvavahera, Virginia Chihota, Simon Back, Tafadzwa Gwetai, Philippe Grosclaude, Tracey Hunt, Shepherd Mahufe, Greg Shaw, Wallen Mapondera and Chanjerai Mutasa, to mention a few.

Victor Nyakauru has “Rare Mare”, an amazing larger than life size stallion head or mask constructed in bits and pieces of various wooden furniture cut-offs. They all have the necessary curves, twists and turns, perfect shapes and sizes as if they were carved by their respective craftsmen specifically for this horse’s head. Only the nostrils and the mouth parts were carved by Victor himself using a piece of wood. He is a specialist of found objects. The well leather harnessed mammal head has been constructed from the hardest to the softest of various aged wood with various natural brown colours.

The tamed horse’s head imposingly seems to emerge from the House Gallery wall as if the rest of its muscular bulky will horse-power through the wall.

This is not surprising from established Victor Nyakauru as he has created wonders before that saw him being rewarded with various awards which include the Overall winner in mixed media sculpture category for the National Arts Merit Awards of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe.

Other interesting art pieces include “Sekuru Mandebvu” by Albert Wachi, “Tragic Actor’s Mask” by Arthur Azevedo, “True Skin i, ii, iii” by Masimba Hwati amongst others. The show will shut its doors to the public in mid July 2014.

Source : The Herald