Artist Owen Maseko to fight Home Affairs ban

owen_masekoBulawayo artist Owen Maseko (Pictured) says he will fight a ban on his art work, which depicts the 1980s Matabeleland massacres carried out by troops loyal to Robert Mugabe.

On Saturday it was reported that the Ministry of Home Affairs had banned his work, under the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act, with a notice in the Government Gazette reading: The exhibition at the Bulawayo Art Gallery of effigies, paintings and words written on the walls portraying the Gukurahundi era is a tribal-biased event and as such is prohibited.

On Tuesday Maseko confirmed that his exhibition is banned. His work is made of paintings and effigies that show the harsh reality of the Gukurahundi, as well as the decades of oppression and violence that have characterised Zimbabwe.

In March the work was shown at the Bulawayo Art Gallery, but Maseko was arrested and charged with violating Section 33 of the Criminal Law and Codification Act, which punishes anyone who insults or undermines the authority of the President.

Speaking about the ban Maseko told SW Radio Africa; As an artist for the sake of the whole artist community, I have to challenge the ban. There is no way we can function as artists if we cant be free to express ourselves. The most important thing as an artist is that we need to be relevant to the society we are living in.

The Ministry of Home Affairs is co-run by the MDC-Ts Theresa Makone and ZANU PFs Kembo Mohadi. That the Home Affairs endorsed athis draconian clamp down, with an MDC-T minister at its helm, casts doubts on the partys claims of promoting democracy and freedom of expression in Zimbabwe. The MDCs constitution says it is a party dedicated to the promotion and advancement of human rights and to setting up a government based on the principles of freedom and good governance.

The unfortunate part is that we have got the healing process which has to go on, the organ of national healing which is supposed to function under the government of national unity. But I dont know how they are going to make that work because if you cant discuss these issues then it means they are not functional in present day Zimbabwe, Maseko said.

Tabani Moyo, from the Media Institute of Southern Africas Zimbabwe chapter, said this ban was not taken by ZANU PF alone but by the MDC factions too. They chose to call it an inclusive government, in that same definition they are inclusive in violating media freedom of expression as we have seen with the banning of paintings and film, he said.

Moyo added: What the government of Zimbabwe is trying to do is to make sure that there is no debate pertaining to the atrocities of the early eighties. How can the nation heal when artists of the day who are supposed to mirror what society is doing are firstly arrested, and secondly the government goes to make a bold move of issuing a gazette, targeting a person and his work? The Ministry of Home Affairs could not be reached for comment.

Post published in: Arts

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