By Simplicius Chirinda
Harare, February 4, 2014 – A group of Zimbabwean and American artists are breaking the visa imposed boundaries through a groundbreaking project that allows them to put together works of art project via social media networking site, Skype.
The project known as the Zimbabwe Cultural Centre of Detroit (ZCCD) is the brainchild of Warren Park-based Kumbulani Zamchiya and Detroit-based Chido Johnson.
Their aim is to build a global cultural village linked together by new technologies and social media without uprooting the involved artists from the usual places of abode.
“Our strategy is approaching the global community through the local groups. Our centers are domestic homes. One is in Detroit, U.S.A. and the other is in Harare,” said Zamchiya, whose parent’s home in Harare’s Warren Park acts as the cultural embassy of the project in Zimbabwe.
The group is currently hosting an exhibition of art works by artists from both countries. Participating artists range from musicians, filmmakers and writers.
Zamuchiya said the exhibition entitled “Kumusha” which is being hosted at Delta Gallery in Harare is the first attempt to break the boundaries between Zimbabwe and the United States.
“Recognising our role as cultural ambassadors we endeavor to foster a culture of research and dialogue across geographic boundaries of Detroit, Michigan and Zimbabwe. We acknowledge the current situation of economic crisis and a range of social issues that individuals in both these spaces grapple with,” said Zamuchiya.
“Our goal is to encourage strong ties between culture producers and residents in both Zimbabwe and Detroit acting as catalysts for critical artistic production as well as cultural exchange between these two diverse communities.”
For co-founder, Chido Johnson, the inaugural project exhibition is about bringing Detroit to Zimbabwe and vice versa.
“The two spaces, Detroit and Zimbabwe are not foreign to global media imposed identities, both in an economic crisis, the exhibit “Kumusha” is an attempt to connect the two communities virtually blurring the boundaries and extended their immediate communities into a global village. The personal narratives shared among the collaborators from both spaces define their cities through the individual and not the generalised popular identities,” said Johnson.
Zimbabwean artists have for a number of years faced challenges from visa denials to lack of money to travel to festivals around the world. This project will give the artists both experience and a chance to work with US artists without having to go through the usual red tape of applying for visas and raising travelling money.
Among some of the projects that the artists are working on is the T-shirt project, which is bringing together renowned Zimbabwean visual artists such as Tapfuma Gutsa, Masimba Hwati, Zanele Mutema, and Gareth Nyandoro together with the US counterparts to design t-shirts with messages about the two countries.
Another of the project’s ground breaking idea is In Between, a collaboration between Detroit techno DJ and visual artist George Rahme and DJ Pitso – Philani Majama based in Harare, Zimbabwe. In Between is a simultaneous music recording between the two in a studio in Warren Park, Harare and Detroit the United States. The recording was done via a Skype connection and made into a film.
Through the musicians, visual artists, performance artists and others, the project also aims to get the artists to engage in a conversation and respond to similar circumstances of politics, economics, life — the world — through art and across continents.