In award-winning artist Kudzanai Chiurai’s State of the Nation, the notion of “state” is explored as a utopia and an action, a state of mind as well as a status. This new exhibition will take place at two venues: a warehouse on Gwi Gwi Mrwebi Street in Newtown and Goodman Gallery Projects at Arts on Main. Between the two venues, the show features photographic prints, drawings, large oil paintings, video, sound installation and performance with a focus on youth culture. State of the Nationproposes fresh ways of looking at the socio-politics of Africa today. It explores the African condition by juxtaposing the past and the present of a continent in the grip of violent civil wars.
The title State of the Nationis intended to explore aspects of a constructed African state that has just been ravaged by conflict. “On a continent that has experienced more violent conflict than any other, this exhibition follows an individual’s narration of events that lead up to the inaugural speech by the first supposedly democratically elected prime minister. This leader styled along many of our existing African leaders, retells the history of a people from another time, but still Africa’s time…” says the artist.
With Melissa Mboweni as curator of the project and collaborations with photographer Jurie Potgieter and singers Thandiswa Mazwai and Zaki Ibrahim, Chiurai references child soldiers, African liberation movements, and civil wars. He tracks the similarities in the societal, political and ideological fabric of states in tumultuous times of transition. Notions of public and private are raised in performances taking place in the streets of Newtown and in basements with limited access. A sound installation scores the gallery experience. Representations of spectacle perpetuated by the media are brought to question. Scenes captured in photographs, drawings and paintings play into popular hip-hop imagery.
In a similar style to previous bodies of work (such as his Dying to be Men series of 2009), Chiurai’s constructed environments are enticing and seductive but explore very real casualties of African independence and democracy and the effects of globalisation on war. Chiurai’s nation asks, “If we could write our history and chart our futures as we please, who would we be?”
Born in 1981 in Zimbabwe, Kudzanai Chiurai is an internationally acclaimed young artist now living and working in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was the first black student to graduate with a BA Fine Art from the University of Pretoria. Regarded as part of the “born free” generation in Zimbabwe – born one year after the country’s independence from Rhodesia – Chiurai’s early work focused on the political, economic and social strife in his homeland. Seminal works such as Presidential Wallpaper depict Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe as a sell-out and led to Chiurai’s exile from his home country. Chiurai has held numerous solo exhibitions since 2003 and has participated in various local and international exhibitions, most recently Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South African Photographyat the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Nowat the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which acquired Chiurai’s work for their collection.
Kudzanai Chiurai (b. 1981, Zimbabwe) was born one year after Zimbabwe’s emergence from white-ruled Rhodesia. Chiurai incorporates various media into his practice, which is largely focused around cycles of political, economic and social strife present in post-colonial societies.
Chiurai’s artwork confronts viewers with the psychological and physical experience of African metropolises. From large mixed media works and paintings to photography and video, Chiurai tackles some of the most pressing issues facing these environments, such as xenophobia, displacement and inequality.
Chiurai has held numerous solo exhibitions since 2003 and has participated in various local and international exhibitions, such as Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography (2011) at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now (2011) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Other notable exhibitions include The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited curated by Simon Njami at Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt (2014) and SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah USA (2015), as well as Art/Afrique, Le nouvel atelier (2017) at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, Regarding the Ease of Others (2017) at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Genesis [Je n’isi isi]- We Live in Silence at IFA in Stuttgart, Germany and Ubuntu, a Lucid Dream (2020) at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
Chiurai’s Conflict Resolution series was exhibited at dOCUMENTA (13) (2012) in Kassel and the film Iyeza was one of the few African films to be included in the New Frontier shorts programme at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. Chiurai has held numerous solo exhibitions with Goodman Gallery and has edited four publications with contributions by leading African creatives.
At present the artist lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe.