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By Zivisai Chagaka

TOP Zimbabwean arts curator Raphael Chikukwa has challenged local financial institutions and other corporates to support the arts sector and reap the sure benefits of art collection.

Chikukwa, who is also the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) executive director, is hosting an online talk series under the FNB Art Joburg Talk Series, which has been running since the beginning of this month.

He said local banks should “look at this FNB art project critically for it is a powerful tool that is key in growing the African art market”.

Being held virtually on Instagram because of the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, this year’s FNB Art Joburg Talk Series is running under the theme “Stars are Born Every Day: Re-imagining Zimbabwe’s Contemporary Art Future Narratives Beyond the 21st Century”.

FNB (First National Bank) is one of South Africa’s “big five” banks. FNB hosts the annual art fair — FNB Art Joburg — that brings African gallerists to showcase the best art that is coming out of the continent and the talk series in one of its ongoing projects in support of the arts sector. Chikukwa said the online discussion “is an important initiative that gives the Zimbabwean arts diaspora a voice”.

In an interview with Independent Xtra this week, Chikukwa said: “The month-long talk show is a part of the FNB Art Joburg project and we are fortunate that this year’s talk series is focusing on Zimbabwe. This is an ongoing project for FNB Art Joburg and this year because of Covid-19 pandemic, it is being held virtually.

“So far I have had a one-on-one discussion with Ronald Muchatuta, a Zimbabwean working as an artist in Cape Town. It’s important to give the diaspora a voice and last Thursday (November 4), Muchatuta took the audience through his journey to South Africa. Not as easy as some people think and today his work speaks for itself.”

He said Muchatuta will represent Zimbabwe at one of the prime arts fairs, the Venice Biennale, in April next year. Muchatuta will be joined by Wallen Mapondera, Kreshia Mkwazhi and Terence Musekiwa.

The Venice Biennale is one of the most prestigious cultural institutions for international art exhibitions featuring architecture, visual arts, cinema, dance, music and theatre that is held in the Castello district of Venice, Italy, every two years. It was founded in 1895.

Said Chikukwa: “As the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, we use Zoom and Google, but we are grateful to FNB Art Joburg for this platform as a country and also would like to say to the Zimbabwean artists, the sky is the limit. Good work speaks for itself. Let’s not give up the fight and platforms like this are a powerful tool to grow an African art ecosystem.”

However, he implored local banks and the corporate world to rise to the occasion and follow the lead of FNB in support of the arts sector.

“I encourage Zimbabwean banks to look at this FNB art project critically for it is a powerful tool that is key in growing the African art market. Not only that, but as banks you can grow your own art collection and tomorrow it pays off,” he said.

“For how long should our artists continue to be collected and supported by outsiders? Zimbabwean artists continue to shine outside and be celebrated outside; we can join hands and celebrate our own people.”

This year’s FNB Art Joburg fair was won by Zimbabwean Wycliffe Mundopa, who is represented by a Zimbabwean gallery, First Floor Gallery, in Harare. Mundopa is a former student of the NGZ’s School of Visual Arts and Design. Mundopa joins a prestigious list of previous winners since the launch of the prize in 2011.

He received a cash prize as well as a solo exhibition which opened to the public at the Johannesburg Art Gallery on October 31, 2021. The FNB Art Joburg, being the first art fair in Africa, has become one of the most coveted visual art prizes on the African continent giving recognition to artists on the continent.

“I am inspired by what is coming out of art studios and if you are a star artist today, it’s not forever. Let’s watch out because stars are born every day,” Chikukwa added.

The FNB Art Joburg Talk Series will be live every Thursday at 6pm until the end of this month on Instagram handle @fnbartjoburg.

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