A portrait of Africa in Harare’s streets

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A portrait of Africa in Harare’s streets

THE SouthernTIMES Mar 20, 2018

    Gracious Madondo

    Any visitor to Harare has one way or the other come across beautiful and colourful fine art paintings on canvas or cloth that depict and celebrate the ideal African life in all its facets.   

    In Harare, the colourful paintings are normally displayed on particular road intersections for maximum impact on passers-by and motorists.

    Without a doubt, the paintings found in all ranges and sizes create a remarkably calm and rich cultural space.

    A glance at the paintings while walking or driving past naturally stirs thoughts of an emotionally deep longing for the ethnic and cultural African rural life.

    Despite the economic challenges that continue to dog Zimbabwe, Harare- the capital city – has over the years become a vibrant melting pot of the country’s cultural      milieu.

    The capital’s multi-cultural population reflects the country’s rich history captured in the fine art paintings that appeal to both locals and foreigners visiting the country.

    Modernity has not altered the people’s great pride in all things African. 

    Paintings capturing the undisturbed African society with half-naked women in traditional kilts going about their chores with men in loincloths with a beautiful background of untapped vegetation and wildlife are always on display at some road intersections or some markets just outside the Central Business Unit at Avondale Shopping Centre.

    Avondale Shopping Centre is located on the north-eastern side of the city surrounded by upmarket suburbs of Avondale, Milton Park, Belgravia, Mt Pleasant and Avonlea. Artists and peddlers display their wares at strategic places to catch the attention of shoppers.

    Sadly, despite the visible passion that the artists have in celebrating the bygone African culture and identity, they continually struggle just to make ends meet, as the economic challenges in the country have also taken a toll on the broader creative arts industry.

    Many artists are, however, optimistic that the new dispensation in Harare will take a proactive role in promoting arts and culture. 

    The value of arts and culture to society is intrinsic in that it illuminates our inner lives and enriches our emotional world.

    Arts, in general, have a wide, measurable impact on the economy, health and well-being of the society and its education. In other words, the arts must be recognised as a strategic national resource.

    Edmond Rusere, a fine art painter for 25 years says art has always been his passion inspired by African culture.

    Rusere’s artefacts are not just canvas paintings. They range from custom-made wooden key holders in the shape of the map of Zimbabwe or Africa to colourful traditional necklaces and bangles.

    “My clients are from different backgrounds. Some are tourists looking for souvenirs to take back to their countries while others buy paintings to hang in their homes or adorn restaurant walls for an edifying ambience,” Rusere says.

    Rusere expresses pride and joy in his work and is especially impressed with the way the locals are now showing great appreciation for art and actually buying the paintings.

    The 38-year-old Harare artiste says he survives from his art and is optimistic about the country’s economic prospects that he says would have a ripple effect on other sectors like the arts.

     

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