SEASONED visual artist Batsirai Muswe says a recent visit to China on a cultural exchange programme was enlightening and edified his passion which has turned out to be his profession.
Muswe was part of a team of 84 artists drawn from 83 countries.
“I got useful lessons from China and I observed with lots of admiration that their art industry is way too ahead of ours because it has assimilated technological advancement including establishing frameworks for tapping grassroots knowledge and abilities into mainstream economies,” he said.
“We, however, share lots of similarities on the need for cultural heritage preservations and restoration of adorable traditions. When we visited one of the galleries, we came across carved and engraved jade stones of monuments of Chinese ruins, birds, clay pots and alike.”
Muswe said when they visited the Chinese Institute of Arts, they were exposed to how the people of China drew inspiration from cultural diversity.
That helped him to visualise the importance of culture and the need for people’s development.
From the journey, Muswe said he managed to create viable networks and links that would in future help him and fellow Zimbabweans at large to attend exhibitions as well as cultural exchange programmes.
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“The Chinese government supports art in a great way. Their National Arts Institutions were an integral part of our cultural exchange programmes. My artworks sell very well in America, Canada and South Africa including the Republic of China,” he said.
“I am longing to get adequate sponsorship and preparedness to host an exhibition that showcases some of my recent artworks and those that have helped me to build a name. My archives for now are predominantly face masks because they are a true reflection of Zimbabwean art.”
Born on August 2, 1974, Muswe said a creative mindset developed and was nurtured during his high school days at Lord Malvern in Harare.
Although Muswe is a holder of the national certificate in print and design from Harare Polytechnic, he said he was mostly self-taught in many of the artworks he produced.
Muswe said his creative paintings that he could share with the Chinese and the cultural exchange communities included Generations, The Meeting, The Mask and the Landscape and Spring Time.
He said The Landscape and Springtime painting was a reflection of his adoration of the things he saw from the top of a building when he was in China.
On Generations, he said it was an optical illusion piece that started in the middle of the frame and ended in the same central position. The artworks reflect on how past cohorts and age groups have shed tears and sweat in their effort to make improvements on themselves and their workmanship.
“The Meeting is a proclamation that the different types of head masks painted and carved mostly by different tribes in Africa are a symbol for the rise in demands for tolerance of various opinions, emotions and sentiments shared in conversations.
“The Mask draws memories back to the COVID-19-induced difficulties instead of the scary masquerades (zvinyau or gule wankulu). The COVID-19 was not in any way hiding from self-consciousness, but a time that needed strict compliance and adherence to prescribed safety measures,” he explained.
Muswe is a devout Christian who grew up in and still attends the St Peters United Methodist Church in Chitungwiza.