Gukurahundi artist speaks out

via Gukurahundi artist speaks out | SW Radio Africa by Nomalanga Moyo  November 7, 2013 

Owen Maseko, the visual artist accused by the Robert Mugabe administration of ‘offending’ the president through his paintings depicting the Gukurahundi atrocities, has spoken out about his experiences.

Maseko was arrested on March 25th, 2010 – the first day of his Sibathontisele exhibition at the Bulawayo Art gallery – and charged with insulting Mugabe.

His exhibition was boarded up and that section of the gallery treated as a crime scene, and Maseko says the only time he was allowed to see his work was when the magistrate hearing his case asked to be shown what these “offensive” images were as she couldn’t understand the basis of the charges.

Magistrate Ntombizodwa Mazhandu subsequently acknowledged that the state-sanctioned murder and torture of more than 20,000 civilians in Matebeleland and the Midlands, code-named Gukurahundi, did take place.

Maseko’s case was transferred to the ConCourt after his lawyers argued that using the Criminal Law Act to suppress Maseko’s artistic creativity was unconstitutional.

Last Wednesday, the top court agreed with Maseko’s lawyers, and asked the Justice Minister to appear before the judges on November 20th to show cause why sections of that legislation should stand.

On Thursday, Maseko told SW Radio Africa of his relief at the ConCourt verdict.

“It’s been a very uncertain period for my family. To start with, following my arrest, I was ostracised by the artistic community in Bulawayo. No gallery would allow me to exhibit and I was shunned even by the small group that I was an official of.

“Of course I had opportunities to exhibit in Europe, but it is never the same as exhibiting at home, being part of your community, your people and so this was a very sad time for me.”

On the streets of Bulawayo Maseko says he received mixed reactions, with some calling him a tribalist because of his paintings. Some however visited his home-based gallery to see for themselves the kind of work he does.

“I look forward to a day when open discussion of this sad chapter of our history will be allowed without tribalising it. Of course Gukurahundi was perpetrated by some members of one tribe against another tribe, but as a country we need to see beyond tribal lines and begin to interrogate this atrocity within the broader issue of human rights abuses.

“And we can only get to that stage by acknowledging that it happened rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet. Government needs to realise that talking about it, in whatever form, is part of the healing process for the victims,” Maseko added.

Despite the possibility of spending 20 years behind bars for the ‘insult’ crime, Maseko says he was never so afraid as to self-censor.

“Since I was first arrested, there has been more scrutiny directed at artists, and although there have been many times when I have been afraid, it was fear for my safety, and never fear to express myself.

“There have been times in the last three years when I have felt low, and that has spurred even more vivid paintings of my experiences. I have never considered self-censoring because I don’t see anything wrong, offensive or insulting in saying the truth,” he added.

It’s not the first time that the ZANU PF government has been offended by art. In the 1990s a statue by another Bulawayo artist, Adam Madebe, was banished from public display by the late minister Enos Chikowore “to protect Zimbabweans against its corrupting and perverting influence.”

Madebe’s artwork, named Look into the Future, was a four-metre-high statue of a nude male, and depicted a young man looking to his future with no possessions. Some read it as a political statement and an indictment of the worsening social and economic conditions at the time, hence the discomfort within government circles.

 

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 8
  • comment-avatar
    zimbo 8 years ago

    Well done Owen!Stay strong,the oppressor must be reminded about his evil doings.

  • comment-avatar
    Tjingababili 8 years ago

    BLACKSMITH vs REALSMITH!

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    Sekuru Mapenga 8 years ago

    From the article, the artist Owen Maseko says: “I don’t see anything wrong, offensive or insulting in saying the truth.”
    Sadly Zimbabwean justice is not based upon the truth, but has been perverted to serve the interests of the ruling party. The artist is arrested and brought to trial for painting pictures of events that happened.
    Congratulations to Magistrate Ntombizodwa Mazhandu, and indeed to the ConCourt, for this judgement. May this overdue embrace of justice by the judiciary long continue.

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    Mthwakazi 8 years ago

    The interesting thing is that, had he come up with a painting of Rhodesian atriocities in Chimoio, Zambia and other places, these would have been displayed everywhere for everyone to see and even given the official government stamp, including Mugabe’s signature!!!

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    Shame 8 years ago

    “I look forward to a day when open discussion of this sad chapter of our history will be allowed without tribalising it. Of course Gukurahundi was perpetrated by some members of one tribe against another tribe, but as a country we need to see beyond tribal lines and begin to interrogate this atrocity within the broader issue of human rights abuses.

    “And we can only get to that stage by acknowledging that it happened rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet. Government needs to realise that talking about it, in whatever form, is part of the healing process for the victims,” Maseko added.

    Well done well done Maseko. You are the type of healing medicine society requires.

    Now,since there so many of these ‘sad chapters of our history requiring opend discussion…’as you say, move on to exhibit greater works, meaningful, thought provoking works that leave people with a graphic impression of the social injustice and savagery of mankind. Escalate graphics of Murambatsvina-maybe paint a mud hut being razed to the ground by a giant bulldozer with an old grandmother droping a tear in the background, just to show the cruelity of government.

    Oh, lest we forget. Madzviti. Yah that one. We need artworks, giant exhibitions just to torch emotions, talk about it and cause automatic healing. Why not paint a graphic illumination of KoBulawayo city of skullbashery, show Lobengula’s axe descending on the neck of one harpless captive -call him Chaminuka Mufemberi, and in the background, why not show a pile of whether-beaten skulls and skeletons, to illustrate that skull-bashery was an sge-old tradition-“of this government?” Dont forget to use water colours to illustrate stolen cattle, raped women, and captive slaves. You can use green to colour stollen cattle from a herd grazing in the plains, red, to colour raped captive women in a crowd, and yellow to show captive slaves at a ceremony.

    If these graphics help in national healing, your works must be mandatory, backed by an act of parliament like mandatory blending of fuel with ethanol… let there be a law that makes it mandatory to graphically depict and openly discuss social excesses. The Maseko Graphic Act… or something like that…
    \Society must be told of their barbaric acts by art and mouth…

  • comment-avatar
    Mthwakazi 8 years ago

    @Shmame

    Leave Maseko alone. You cant expect him to come up with paintings of imaginery images that can not be substantiated by any living human being. This is what you want him to do about your so-called Madzwiti raids. Those are imaginations, stories with no witnesses.

    Gukurahundi has living witnesses, living victims, and living perpetrators. Everything can be checked and double checked for authenticity. Where there are exaggerations, we will demand corrections. Where there is underplaying, we will demand correction.

    Unless you can produce the witnesses, perpetrators and victims of those Madzwiti raids that you claim, stop bothering Maseko!!

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    msizeni silwelani 8 years ago

    A thumbs up to the judiciary. More thought provoking pieces are expected. Censoring artworks is but an insult to free thinking Zimbabweans. Leave them to make unfated conclusions. See if they can find each other within the artistic effort of the fearless. Let art shape, if possible, their future.

    Maseko, in your next exhibition, show how the murderous junta carried on with their heinous act after the formation of the MDC. This will jack other societies in some parts of the country into realising that we are but sheep in feedlots. Without warning, the farmer can eliminate the unwanted breed.

    As for the ” look into the future” work, it was visionary, it wins with unanimity, from all the tribes.

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    @ Shame – And then do the Madzviti raid expressions yourself because Maseko painted what was vivid in his mind. I bet he remembers too well the atrocities of Gukura Hundi. As for you Shame Shame you have to refer to your great great grandfather’s story which has so many untruths and come up with its artistic expression and i know for a fact you will never be arrested but we will see you on ZTV on the book of African Records because yours Shame will be themed a job well done!