Nairobi’s Goethe Institute is giving its audiences a unique glimpse into the Gukurahundi operation in Zimbabwe that saw those suspected to be against the government massacred.
The exhibition by renowned visual artiste Owen Maseko is titled Sibathontisele (Let’s Drip On Them). It is a depiction of the 1980s brutality by the national army’s Fifth Brigade upon people of the Ndebele community in Matabeland.
Owen first held the Sibathontisele exhibition in 2010, but got himself into trouble with the authorities for openly addressing the actrocities and criticising and undermining the Robert Mugabe presidency through his work.
The exhibit was closed within 24 hours and Owen was arrested and taken into custody for serious interrogation.
The ongoing exhibition highlights the reality — one that Mugabe refers to as “moments of madness” — of living amidst savage physical violence and the cruelty of the operation.
The artiste, who was present at the opening, urged Kenyan creatives to take part in addressing inhumanity caused by those in power.
“As an artiste, you need to take a step and do your activism through your art and inform everyone. Creativity can never be censored, “ Maseko said.
The exhibition is dominated by a red background to symbolise blood shed during the unrest. On it are graffiti quotes taken from articles published by the Zimbabwean newspaper in the late 1980s.
Against the unusual background, Owen displays figurative paintings and model installations that depicted the form of torture that people were taken through.
“I am a survivor of the Gukurahundi atrocities. I witnessed my parents and neighbours being beaten up,” Maseko said.
Owen believes that the collection, which has been banned in galleries in Zimbabwe, is essential and is meant to help the country heal itself.
After the exhibition, Maseko is not sure what to expect when he goes back home.
“I don’t know what will happen when I go back to Zimbabwe on Sunday, but all I care about is making a difference today,” Maseko said.
Attendees will get the opportunity of being part of the great art work as the artiste has provided space for those who wish to express their opinions about the issue.
Besides painting and fighting for the freedom of creative expression, Maseko is a musician, poet and sculptor.
The exhibition, which opened to the public on April 12, runs until May 5.
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