Korea Foundation Cultural Centre opened an exhibition called Modern Zimbabwean Art from the private collections of Czech and Dutch ambassadors.
A statement from the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe yesterday said the exhibiton was officially opened on Tuesday by the president of Korean Association of African Studies, Professor Sim Ui-sup.
Also present were the acting president of the Korea Foundation Kim Sung-yup, Ambassadors of the Czech Republic and the Netherlands Jaroslav Olša Jr and Hans Heinsbroek respectively.
“This very special exhibition — the first such wide presentation of modern and contemporary art of Zimbabwe — was curated jointly by two ambassadors, who previously served as their countries’ ambassadors to Zimbabwe,” said the statement.
Czech ambassador Olsa Jr served in Zimbabwe from 2000 to 2006. He was previously a director of the Czech foreign ministry’s African department.
Dutch ambassador Heinsbroek was in the country from 2002 to 2006 and his Africa experience also covered his stay as deputy head of the Dutch embassy in Tanzania in the 1990s.
As a painter himself, he was involved in a cultural life in and around Harare’s Gallery Delta and collected mainly the works by Zimbabwean painters.
During the official opening, an original Czech film on beauties of Zimbabwe and life of its sculptors made by Pavel Cerný was screened.
The statement said the core of the exhibition is made of paintings of all generations of Zimbabwean artistes.
“One can find the works by the first succesful painter of today’s Zimbabwe, Robert Paul, as well as works of the extremely succesful generation of artistes of the 1990s — Luis Meque, George Churu, Stephen Williams or Ishmael Wilfred — who unfortunately died in their late thirties or early forties.”
There were also over seven paintings by Helen Lieros of Gallery Delta, whose work has influenced many young artists such as Lovemore Kambudzi, Misheck Masamvu and Admire Kamudzengerere, whose works are also on show in the Korean capital, Seoul.
Works by other painters like David Chinyama, Charles Kamangwana, Barry Lungu, Doreen Sibanda, Thakor Patel, Freddy Tauro, Cosmos Shiridzinomwa, Patrick Makumbe, Anthony Bumhira and Greg Shaw are also exhibited.
Significantly smaller space is devoted to the Zimbabwean ceramists, the works of Frouwke Viewing, Marjorie Wallace and Patrice Delchambre are shown, as well as textiles and paintings by Babette FitzGerald and iron sculptures and drawings of Arthur Azevedo.
Smaller space is designated for Zimbabwean stone sculpture, which is already well-known in South Korea.
At least one catalogue and a book by one of former Korean ambassadors to Zimbabwe on the history of Zimbabwean stone sculpture has been published in Korean, and a few exhibitions took place in South Korea in the past.
Therefore on this exhibition, only a few works — by Paul Gwichiri, Fanizani Akuda, Ephraim Chaurika and Issa Simms — representing different generations and different artistic backgrounds are at display. To give a bit more visibility of a different kind to Zimbabwean sculpture, a special photographic exhibition Face Behind the Art, by Czech photographer Ondrej Homolka is also a part of this exhibition. It shows the portraits of the most famous Zimbabwean sculptors made in their studios or at Tengenenge sculpture colony between 2006 and 2007.
Olsa was active in promoting Zimbabwean sculpture and sculptors and spent significant time among the artistes of famous Tengenenge sculpture colony.
When he went back to his native country he co-organised a couple of exhibitions of Zimbabwean art and also produced three Czech-language books on Zimbabwean sculpture and the first Czech book on the history of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi (2008), which he co-authored with Otakar Hulec.
On the occasion of this exhibition, a bilingual English-Korean book titled Modern Art of Zimbabwe written by Olsa was published by Korea Foundation Cultural Centre.
With more than 100 pages and many photographs, it has the most detailed description of the history of modern Zimbabwean art — sculpture, as well as painting.