Beautiful art traces hardship

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

As the Zimbabwean situation deteriorated economically and politically, Zimbabweans left their homes in droves to neighbouring countries.

They live in South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and all over the world. This exodus is the subject of a ground-breaking art exhibition at the Drill Hall in Johannesburg.

Aptly called Displacement of Zimbabweans into the SADC and its implications for poverty eradication in the region, the people who created the art are from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.

These people have never painted or sculpted before. They learnt the skills from workshop facilitators.

It all began with a general discussion in which each participant spoke about his or her life. This led to a set of discussions about their difficulties in South Africa and other countries.

They spoke about the differences and similarities between them and South Africans and they discussed issues such as home and exile, their journeys and homecoming. Individuals then had to map their own journeys and histories on a single page.

They had to choose a moment along that journey - a day, an hour - and expand it into a visual narrative of no more than five images.

The group discussed their stories to see if they communicated clearly and effectively, and suggested ways to improve them.

In the last three days the project involved translating the stories into two-page comics, with each set of comics on a single A2-sized page.

Finally, the group examined the comics and commented on them.

The result of all this is exquisite art that could easily be mistaken for the work of professional artists.

A play to complement the art was also produced.

The project has been coordinated by the Zimbabwe Crisis Coalition.

The workshops were facilitated by Kwame Seade from Ghana, Owen Maseko from Zimbabwe and Charlotte Schaer from South Africa.