How Chikonzero Chazunguza reinvents history
I believe in the importance of claiming ownership and authorship of the stories we tell. Especially because we are a people whose stories have been distorted, whose stories have been erased. At best stories are told about us….on our behalf.
A lot of musicians, artists, historians, writers and more, have been working hard to change this, throughout the years. One such artist is Chiko Chazunguza of Zimbabwe.
This is how the gallery delta describes Chiko: he is a Zimbabwean visual artist and provocateur, whose multimedia artworks raise searching questions about the postcolonial condition and about the unstable role and nature of art in its postcolonial context.
Two of the pieces he presented at the recent Joburg Art Fair resonated with me deeply. The key theme of these two pieces was; reclaiming the narrative.
He describes how he went through archives to find pictures which represent a specific time or event in history. Instead of reproducing these pictures he completely turned the story around. By changing the portrayal of events in a time of oppression and colonialism, he is bringing about a new kind of healing.
This piece (above) was inspired by a picture of a Herero family in Namibia. The picture was taken during colonial rule at a time when the Herero people where under attack and being massacred. The original photograph tells the story of war and suffering, however by depicting the family without showing the emotions on the faces or the tattered clothes they are wearing, this work could be representative of any people. Its almost like rebirth….giving this family a second chance.
Similarly this second piece was based on a picture of enslaved men in shackles. They were made to “hold” or connect their hands to ensure that they could not run away. If you remove the bodies and the shackled feet, you’re left with a different narrative; one representing unity.
I love this. It speaks to the freedom to decide how we choose to frame history. It speaks to reinventing our relationship with the past in deciding who we want to be.