Zimbabwean Artists: George Masarira

1528621_1426055424294952_608723185_n936592_1426055414294953_673231510_n Paintings by George Masarira (with permission)

George Masarira is a 23-year-old artist from Zimbabwe. He was born in Gokwe but sadly lost his family at a young age. He says that he always wanted to be an artist and went to the Mzilikazi Arts and Crafts Centre in Bulawayo to study. The centre was first established in 1963 to provide an all round education but especially to encourage young people with artistic talent.

George’s work is bright and colourful, focusing mainly on street life. He loves to paint women going about their daily lives because, he says, its a way to express the joy of a loving family that he wasn’t able to have himself . His tough life has helped forge his talent and his scenes are a true representation of daily life, women chatting, children playing, a mother carrying her child on her back, all in bright colours that reflect the African sun .995284_1431239640443197_2146354988_n

You can find more of George Masarira’s work on his Facebook Page. All art works are available to buy.

Painting by George Masarira (with permission)

Zimbabwe General Election 2013

On Wednesday July 31, the people of Zimbabwe will go to the polls. Once again, there has been all kinds of chicanery carried out by President Robert Mugabe and his henchmen to do everything they can to ensure a win for ZANU-PF.

Among the dirty tricks has been a ‘special voting’ weekend for members of the armed forces and police which took place on July 14 and 15; the reason being given for this was that the personnel would be needed on election day to ensure security. However, this ‘special vote’ was nothing short of chaotic with many of those wishing to vote unable to do so. There is now concern that members of the security forces, traditionally Mugabe supporters, may vote twice following a Constitutional Court order that those who did not get the chance to vote can do so along with the general population on Wednesday.

Then there is the curious case of ballot papers from the special vote in favour of the opposition MDC party leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, being found in a rubbish bin outside the Harare International Conference Centre. The Deputy Transport Minister has been arrested and is being questioned by police in regards to this matter.

Finally there are the words of President Mugabe himself, who has been in power for 33 years, presiding over the downfall of his country from economic boom to disaster, starvation and disease. Mugabe is 89 now but in his speeches at party rallies he appears to hint that he will not accept the result if Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC party wins.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told the BBC that the Army will take over if Tsvangirai wins, claiming that other countries were aiding the MDC. “And if those countries impose for him [Tsvangirai] to win, that result will not be acceptable. We will not accept it. We will just not accept it. Isn’t that clear?”

In previous election campaigns, President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF cronies have been able to control the media, making sure that newspapers etc toe the party line, but in 2013, social media has changed the way that people communicate and disseminate information. One Facebook page in particular, that of ‘Baba Jukwa‘ has over 300,000 followers. No-one knows who ‘Baba Jukwa’ is but his or her posts have led to Mugabe putting a price on his or her head.

Zimbabweans have an historic chance to bring about the change that the country so desperately needs but the fear is at what cost? Can the despotic Mugabe finally be brought down? Only the people of Zimbabwe can answer that question at the ballot box.

 

Zimbabwe artists to feature in Venice exhibition

Artists from Zimbabwe will be taking part in the 2013 Venice Biennale, the 55th International Art Exhibition to take place in the Italian city. The exhibition runs from June 1 to November 24 2013.

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The Zimbabwean artists whose work will be on display are Portia Zvavahera, Michele Mathison, Rashid Jogee, Voti Thebe, Virginia Chihota. The exhibition is curated by Raphael Chikukwa. Mrs Doreen Sibanda, the Director of the Zimbabwe National Art Gallery has been ‘the driving force behind this initiative’.

The title of the exhibition is ‘Dudziro’ and according to the National Gallery website, it will be about ‘re-examining the visions of religious beliefs in relation to the current global politics that question the status quo of the role of religion in society’.

See here for more information about some of  the artists.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe

Original caption: President of Zimbabwe Robert...

Original caption: President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe listens as Prof. Alpha Oumar Konare, chairman of the Commission of the African Union, addresses attendees at the opening ceremony of the 10th Ordinary Session of the Assembly during the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At 88-years-old, Robert Mugabe has been President of Zimbabwe since 1980. He has presided over the decline of his country, the death of millions of people and is determined to carry on as President for as long as he possibly can.

Who is Robert Mugabe?

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on Feb 21,1924. His father was a carpenter and his mother a teacher. His father went to South Africa when Mugabe was young, supposedly to work at a Jesuit Mission, but he never came home, leaving his mother to bring up her four children on her own.
Robert Mugabe received a good education, attending a local Jesuit Mission, then studying privately whilst teaching. He went to the University of Fort Hare in South Africa where he received a BA in History and English in 1951. He did a correspondence course to gain a Bachelor of Education degree in 1953 and a Bachelor of Science in Economics which he did through the University of London and then completed in 1958 after moving to Ghana. He met and married his first wife, Sarah Heyfron whilst still in Ghana.

Entry Into Politics

Mugabe had declared himself to be a Marxist whilst still in Ghana but it wasn’t until he returned to his home town in what was then Southern Rhodesia to introduce his wife to his family that he became involved in politics. He felt strongly that the black residents were being denied basic civil rights and joined the National Democratic Party. The party was banned in 1961 and then reformed to become the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU). The leader of the party was Joshua Nkomo, who would later become a target of Mugabe’s hatred. Mugabe felt that the talks being held between ZAPU and the United Nations, demanding a change in the constitution of the country was not going far enough. He called for a guerilla war.

Prison

In 1963, he and other former supporters of Nkomo founded their own resistance movement in Tanzania, calling it the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). When he returned to his home country he was promptly arrested and sent to prison, where he would remain for ten years. In November 1964, the Prime Minister, Ian Smith, called for a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from British rule and the country of Rhodesia was born.Whilst in prison, Mugabe continued to educate himself and his fellow prisoners. He was freed in 1974 and went into exile in Zambia and Mozambique.

The Guerilla War

A bloody war broke out between the people and government of Rhodesia and the guerilla movements, ZANLA loyal to Mugabe and ZIPRA loyal to Joshua Nkomo. The two groups were divided on tribal lines. Whilst the war was seen by many as strictly white against black, this was not in fact true. Many of the black population of Rhodesia fought valiantly to protect their homeland. By 1978-1979, the majority of regiments in the Rhodesian army were composed of all black troops, with the Rhodesian African Rifles perhaps the most famous. Many civilians were killed during the bitter battles that raged across the country.

Zimbabwe is born

In 1978 an agreement was reached between the government of Ian Smith and moderate black leaders in Rhodesia. Bishop Abel Muzorewa became the Prime Minister of what then became known as Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. However, neither ZANU or ZAPU had taken part in the agreement and the British government then intervened, brokering the Lancaster House Agreement. Elections were held in 1980 and Robert Mugabe swept to power. At first, he worked hard to convince the white population, especially the farmers whose hard work had made Rhodesia the bread basket of Africa, to stay. However, he still had his arch enemy to deal with. In 1982, Mugabe sent his Fifth Brigade, elite soldiers trained by the North Koreans, into Nkomo’s stronghold in Matabeleland, the southern province of Zimbabwe. Many thousands of people were killed in what many people see as a form of political genocide.

From Popular President to Tyrant

At first, Mugabe’s election was seen as a good choice by all sides,with restructuring the economy, building schools and clinics and encouraging manufacturing all part of his original five year plan, but as time passed, he became more tyrannical , proving the old saw about “absolute power corrupting absolutely”. Anyone who didn’t agree with him was likely to suffer unfortunate accidents, including those who had been at his side throughout the guerilla war. His wife died, leaving him free to marry his much younger mistress, Grace Marufu.

By 1996, his unpopular decisions began to cause real hardship to his people. His decision to seize the land of white farmers, paying no compensation and killing those that refused to move, meant that the food chain spiralled into chaos. Unemployment shot up as did inflation. He managed to get himself re-elected by using scare tactics and in some cases outright force. From being the bread basket of Africa, Zimbabwe now turned to the international community for assistance.

Economy Out of Control

Mugabe’s decisions led to the economy going into meltdown with the Zimbabwe dollar going into a rate of hyperinflation almost unprecedented. Spending on healthcare, education and housing came to a virtual standstill which meant that the AIDS virus was able to take a death grip on the population with 1,2 million of the population suffering HIV or AIDS in 2011 according to a report by UNAIDS, a further 1,6 million people are predicted to be unable to find sufficient food in the first three months of 2013 and regular cholera outbreaks are further decimating an already suffering population. The sick and starving people are forced to read about Grace Mugabe’s frequent shopping trips to Europe with the British Sun newspaper claiming that she has spent over 1,2 million pounds feeding her shopping habit.

Mugabe Now

In 2008, Mugabe was forced to accept a power sharing deal with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Morgan Tsvangirai, following negotiations brokered by South Africa. This has in no way decreased the violence that is a way of life for Zimbawean citizens.
2013 will see a new round of elections that the 88 year old Robert Mugabe is confident he will win. There have been rumours of health problems, including prostate cancer, that he has shrugged off as being “colonialist propoganda”.

Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Jan 10 2013 says that “Zimbabwe’s “unity government” is failing to carry out reforms in the country’s Global Political Agreement that are vital for the country to hold credible, free, and fair elections in 2013”. Many Zimbabweans fear that, if there are elections, there will be the same violence that has characterised all the previous elections and that nothing will change. As long as Robert Mugabe remains in power, their fears are justified.

Free Beatrice Mtetwa

Free Beatrice Mtetwa

Beatrice Mtetwa is a well known Zimbabwean human rights lawyer who has been arrested and is being illegally detained following the referendum on the new constitution. Lawyers, human rights groups such as Amnesty International and the public at large are outraged at the treatment of Ms Mtetwa. In the meantime, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was among those in the VIP section at the inaugural mass for the new Pope, Francis I. How can a man who claims to be a devout Catholic treat the people in his country, over which he has held sway for more than 30 years, in such a brutal way?