Harare's New Cultural Movement is Dubbed “Afropolicity”

A simple analysis of Art history reveals that the most successful and celebrated artists from the twentieth century pioneered, followed and became part of avant-garde cultural movements. The eccentric art genius Salvador Dali created some of the most widely recognizable paintings of the surrealist movement. Pablo Picasso helped pioneer and became the poster artist of the cubism art movement.

This October, Zimbabwe witnessed the arrival of innovative South African Artist Breeze Yoko. Yoko’s arrival caused quiet a stir on Harare’s art scene with his creation of beautiful iconic murals along the walls of contemporary gallery Njelele Art Station, located in a run down part of Harare. Here, amongst the greasy mechanics and touts, visitors can find “Afropolicity,” which is Njelele’s last exhibition of the year and highlights the work of Calvin Dondo, Gareth Nyandoro, Portia Zvavahera, Shannon Murphy, Tafadzwa Gwetai, Misheck Masamvu, Masimba Hwati and Nancy Muteki.

These talented artists, with their different styles, are unwittingly creating an experimental cultural movement by pushing the boundaries of what is accepted as the artistic status quo in Zimbabwe. Under the banner of “Afropolitan”, these creators of art are a united vanguard opening new cultural terrains for Zimbabwean society to follow. Since Taiye Selasi’s 2005 essay “Bye-Bye Barbar”, the question has been “What is an Afropolitan?” despite some Pan Africans calling it “a modified western funded culture for affluent and middle class Africans”.

This cultural movement has been a blessing to Africa, resurrecting African music, fashion and art on a global scale. Inner city as well as upscale western society is starting to take notice with Afropolitan exhibitions at the Tate Modern in London, African prints on Paris runways and dance crazes such as the Azonto on British television.

Afropolicity is an interesting and thought provoking display of breath taking artistic talent from Zimbabwe's best and most talented artists. The display of talent takes place on varied types of mediums, but all the different styles have one thing in common – the Afropolitan theme. What intrigued me the most is an artwork by Misheck Masamvu aptly titled “The lady can shit”, the painting is an artistic twist on the old Rhodesian flag with unity, freedom and shit as its motto. Breeze Yoko’s art on the outer walls of Njelele Art Station sets a vibrant and fresh tone for the art featured inside the gallery.

The artist at Njelele are creative and daring in their expression of “What is an Afropolitan”, which I gather from this exhibition is a Zimbabwean artist that creates outside the box. The historical city of Harare is a lively metropolis bustling with happy activity and rich in culture. The local artists capture the heart and soul of the city in this latest exhibition. Its art loving inhabitants are proud of their city, calling it the “African City of Art.”

Njelele Art Station is a leader among its peers in Zimbabwe with this new art exhibition. Its artistic director, Dana Whabira and multi-talented artist Tinofireyi Zhou (also known as Aero5.ol) are the creative brains behind Afropolicity. What I like about the Afropolitan movement is that it’s not just a geographic location; rather it is in the hearts and minds of the people who embrace it. One artist at Njelele said it was something “created in the sub-terrain of the African mind.” Africans living in any part of the world can be considered Afropolitan as long as they have the right mindset.

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