After a successful launch at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare, last October, Basket Case II is now on show at the National Gallery in Bulawayo.
Featuring new commissions by artists Ifeoma Anyaeji (Nigeria), Alexandra Bircken (Germany), Tapfuma Gutsa (Zimbabwe), Delaine Le Bas (United Kingdom), Michel Paysant (France) as well as designers matali crasset (France) and Sebastian Herkner (Germany), this exhibition is the outcome of a series of artist residencies and design workshops held from April to July 2014 in various locations in Zimbabwe.
The artists and designers have collaborated with five weaving communities: Binga Craft Centre (Binga), Bulawayo Home Industries (Bulawayo), Lupane Women’s Centre (Lupane), Zienzele Foundation (Masvingo) and STEP Trust (Honde).
The resulting art and design pieces reflect a multidisciplinary approach blending Zimbabwean regional weaving traditions, knowledge and skills with contemporary art and design. While each of the works embrace weaving as a common artistic language, they also bear the distinctive mark of each participant.
Tapfuma Gutsa, whose interest in weaving dates back to the first edition of Basket Case in 2009-10, worked with Honde weavers to create pieces that are organic, geometrical, at once abstract and resembling intimate parts of the male and female body, while evoking shapes of objects commonly used locally. Michel Paysant’s work entitled The Blake Project was developed in collaboration with Josiane Paysant and Harare-based French photographer Eric Gauss. Paysant explored possible relations between typography and weaving and focused on the digital/weaving interface. The forms are simple, quasi abstract, almost illegible, and compose the first verse of one of William Blake’s most famous poems from Auguries of Innocence: “To see a world in a grain of sand”. A selection from the 20-square-meter installation conceived for the National Gallery, Harare, has been specifically adapted for the Bulawayo showcase. Presented here are the photographic portraits taken by Eric Gauss of each weaver holding their basket designed by Michel Paysant.
Ifeoma Anyaeji’s Asiwafuni Amavila (we don’t want lazy people) is a four-panel room divider made of Ilala leaves, sisal, plastic bags, discarded plastic bottles, and wood found in Lupane. Anyaeji is well known for her method of upcycling, using plastic bags turned into “plasto-yarn”, and repurposing African hair threading.
Among a number of Bulawayo inspired pieces, Alexandra Bircken revisited her B.U.F.F. series – ‘Big’, ‘Ugly’, ‘Fat’ and ‘Fellow’, referring to ‘B-52’ bombers by American Soldiers – using Ilala. Delaine Le Bas’ Hear Her Roar, a Tonga adaptation of Queen Victoria’s regal gown with a leopard face, weaved in collaboration with five master weavers in Binga, includes additional sculpted elements and a soundscape by British music producer Justin Langlands. This piece and Bircken’s B.U.F.F. both speak to notions of power, warfare and empire.
matali crasset’s Gourd Family was inspired by the gourd basket, an iconic shape recurrent in Bulawayo weaving style. She used it as a generic shape to explore the multiple forms and objects that could derive from it, ranging from bags to original household objects combining aesthetics and functionality. Sebastian Herkner experimented with two prominent traditions in Binga: basketry and clay pottery. Collaborating with the weavers, he developed a range of bowls combining the two techniques. Both designers drew on the weavers’ skills and knowledge to transform craft objects into pieces of contemporary design.
Their works and that of the artists are presented alongside new objects from the five weaving communities in a bid to showcase Zimbabwe’s long lasting cultural heritage and the diversity of the country’s art of weaving. Basket Case II also sets out to contribute towards sustaining the livelihoods of weavers who are predominantly women often located in rural environments.
Mrs Doreen Sibanda, Executive Director of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe had this to say about Basket Case II, “It is important that Basket Case I started here in Bulawayo and we, as the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, have decided to take it back where it started.”
Basket Case II is curated by Raphael Chikukwa, Chief Curator of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare, and Christine Eyene, Guild Research Fellow in Contemporary Art, University of Central Lancashire.
The project was initiated by the EUNIC Zimbabwe Cluster and is funded by the European Union.
Basket Case II
29 January – 21 March 2015
National Gallery of Zimbabwe
Corner 75 Main St / Leopold Takawira Avenue
For more information and press images please contact Cliford Zulu, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Bulawayo at firstname.lastname@example.org