BusinessDay

Pacers Gallery partners Yawoa Foundation in inaugural artist-in-residence program

...as ‘Face the Nation’ exhibition by Zimbabwean artist opens in Lagos

On August 1, 2022, the Nigeria and African visual art landscape witnessed the launch of an impactful art residency program, amid an impressive cultural exchange for the participating artists.

The inaugural residency program by Pacers Gallery, whose objective is to champion emerging talent in contemporary art across Africa, was sponsored by Yawoa Foundation, and also hosted Option Nyahunzvi Dzikamai, a Zimbabwean artist.

Moreover, the program is designed to provide accommodation and studio space for the artist for the period of production; and these are incentives that enable the residents with time and space for reflection, research, experimentation, and production of new art works.

Speaking on the inaugural residency, Wunika Mukan, founder/director, Pacers Gallery, says, “It is a wonderful opportunity for the artist, gallery and community to participate in this cultural exchange. It is especially refreshing to see genuine stakeholder commitment to the arts in Africa from an organization like Yawoa Foundation. We are really grateful that this opportunity affords us the ability to be up close, witness and assist as the resident artist dives deep into their process in Lagos, an experience none of us will soon forget.”

Furthering on the primary goal of cultural exchange, Mukan notes that it aims to provide opportunities for networking, and expansion. The opportunities include; artist talks, open studios, and a solo exhibition following the residency.

“We believe in reciprocity and exchange to foster multicultural dialogue. To this effect, our AIR program hosts artists from across the continent and the African diaspora to expand our offering, providing our audiences with fresh and innovative points of view”, the Pacers Gallery founder/director says further.

Also commenting on the AIR program, especially as sponsor of the residency, Estelle Dogbo, founder, Yawoa Foundation, says,

“This is a fantastic initiative that will further enable galleries like Pacers and contemporary artists, to amplify the already blooming sense of community that exists in the art space, while making pan africanism a cultural reality in the artist’s creative processes. We are proud and grateful to Pacers Gallery for the opportunity to be associated with this powerful program”.

As well, for the duration of the residency, the artist engaged diverse members of the local community in a studio visit, and other creative activities, including workshops, work-in-progress showings, artist talks, and more.

Read also: West Africa’s Premier Art Fair Returns

However, Option Dzikamai Nyahunzvi has successfully completed the residency and following that, Pacers Gallery is presenting the outcomes in a solo exhibition in Lagos from September 29-October 8, 2022 at its Lagos-based gallery.

Tagged, ‘Face the Nation’, the solo exhibition marks the end of a two-month residency for Option Dzikamai Nyahunzvi,who was in Lagos, on the invitation of Pacers Gallery for the residency sponsored by Yawoa Foundation.

The e exhibition features over 16 works, created in the two-month residency by the artist, across paintings, drawings and installations.

Explaining the theme of the exhibition with a scenario from an overloaded kombi bus where a few passengers would sit behind or beside the driver’s seat,Barnabas Ticha Muvhuti, a PhD in Art History candidate at Rhodes University, explains that in the exhibition, Option Nyahunzvi appropriates the concept of ‘facing the nation’ to capture the complex scenarios he faces head-on on his travels and in his quest to understand how other Black people live or get by in life and in the process he gets to appreciate the challenges faced by others, as well as a sense of their accomplishments.

“He takes note of the similarities and differences in comparison with his environment back home. The quest to find out, understand, and perhaps fulfill the soul transcends the physical realm as it involves”, Muvhuti discloses.

Among the multiple interpretations which conjure up on hearing the phrase ‘Face the Nation’, according to him, is a call to political representatives to engage with the problems faced by those who elected them to office, especially on the continent where they easily turn their backs on the people, and care less like they were born of the same mother.

“It is also an expression that captures the predicament of African migrants constantly in motion on the continent and in the diaspora, referencing the adjustments they make in the process of negotiating different environments and cultures, alluding to the syncretism involved in the face of incompatible religious doctrines and conflicting principles”.

But one intriguing aspect of the exhibition is an installation of the property and clothing items the artist was using in the duration of his stay in Lagos, alongside the collages.

They include; the bed, table, kitchen utensils, studio table, chairs, and his clothes, which enabled him to accomplish his mission, hence exhibiting them is an act of acknowledging their energy, spirit, and soul, as well as, recognizing the crucial role the items played in helping shape the works.

Excited to be in Nigeria for the inaugural residency program, amid cultural exchanges, the artist, looks forward to seeing many Nigerians at the exhibition.

Option Dzikamai Nyahunzvi is a Harare-born artist, who studied print design before moving into new mediums. He has exhibited and taken up residencies both locally and globally. Understanding and enjoying Nyanhunzvi’s practice offers a sense of new beginnings or origins. Moreover, the process of making the work, a technique of building up acrylic and paper collage and then peeling away and etching into the surface, is in itself a healing process for the artist too.

Option stands out for his compelling and provocative projects, where otherworldly figures represent “the unseen spiritual presence of everyday people,” which are sometimes “distorted and recreated” from the artist’s friends and relatives. A frequent feature in Nyahunzvi’s work is the zebra- a totem that connects the artist and his clan to their ancestors. The artist inserts the Zebra print into his artworks as a profound ode to his own culture and ancestry. It serves as a point of departure for exploring and asserting the importance of traditional story-telling and mythology, from a contemporary angle. The scenes invite the viewer to participate in the creation of a narrative and to imagine what could possibly be.

Face the Nation runs from September 29-October 8, 2022 at Pacers Gallery Lagos.

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