Muusha fights for recognition of visual arts

When Elizabeth Muusha was appointed the regional director of National Gallery of Zimbabwe here, it was dream come true for someone who was passionate about the arts.

Elizabeth Muusha showing some of the paintings done by school children.
Elizabeth Muusha showing some of the paintings done by school children.

She could not hide the excitement over her dramatic transformation from being a mere teacher to a regional director.

“Just imagine a mere teacher being elevated to a regional arts director. I was very excited indeed,” she told The Zimbabwean in a recent interview.

However, she immediately ran into a myriad challenges after taking up her post. “The post was very challenging and I had to step up to the occasion. Above all, the country was going through an economic meltdown, which made everything very difficult,” she said.

Most employees failed to turn up for work due to transport fares constraints emanating from the economic crisis.

“At one point, I questioned whether I had made the right choice. I was not the only person who was facing such challenges though, the workers were too. Only two were coming to work out of the five because they had no money to pay for bus fare. These were really difficult times for us all,” she said.

Muusha, the third regional director after Trudy Rodgers and Judy Mutunhu, also faced the challenge of trying to maintain the standards set by her predecessors. Meanwhile, visitors to the gallery were few and the clientele base for artifacts had shrunk drastically. But she remained optimistic that things would change for the better.


In 2009 after the introduction of the multi-currency, things began to improve. Workers could afford to come to work, and the number of exhibitors and clientele base significantly improved.

“Since then I’m proud to say we have managed to maintain set standards and further breathed life into the gallery,” said Muusha. The gallery hosts monthly exhibitions of sculptures, paintings, drawings and other visual arts.

The eye-catching Garden Project sees artifacts strategically positioned around the art gallery property, and has been used by many as a backdrop for wedding photos. The gallery’s flagship event is the Manicaland Show of Arts.

This provincial arts competition draws aspiring and established artists from the seven districts of Manicaland to battle for top honours in all arts disciplines.

“I have managed to maintain events that were running when I came on board. I have also managed to implement other initiatives of my own and that on its own is an achievement,” said the regional director. Under her leadership, the gallery has also introduced MANISA junior competitions, where children from different age groups compete.

The next edition of this annual event is expected to be held on July 25 to 26. “It used to be a one day show but as it continues to grow every year, I decided to extend it to a two-day show with a bias towards school children,” said Muusha.

Preparations for this year’s edition of MANISA are at an advanced stage as the gallery has so far secured $5,000 in sponsorship. Muusha is appealing to other well-wishers to chip in. Winners will walk away with cash prizes and certificates.

She also master-minded the Shaurai Music and Poetry showcase, where aspiring performing artists showcase their talents at the gallery. This was launched in 2012 as a monthly event and has been running ever since. It was launched with the assistance of Taremeredzwa Chirewa, a volunteer and Ritz University graduate.


“We came up with the idea for Shaurai after realising that visual arts were being overshadowed by performing arts in the country in general and Mutare in particular. You find that music shows here attract larger crowds than exhibitions,” explained Muusha, who saw the potential of promoting visual arts through performing arts.

“By introducing Shaurai, we attract a large following, which then also find time to appreciate exhibitions in the gallery. So far the turnout has been overwhelming,” she said. The event has become popular among aspiring artists from poets, sungura, jazz and dancehall to hip-hop musicians.

The gallery has also begun to use social media as a marketing and publicity tool for their events and wares.

Child policy

Muusha has adopted a child policy whereby the gallery targets school children who are talented and passionate about arts.

“We want to grow from the community. We want to start from the grassroots. This is why we have been visiting various schools to identify and nurture young talents,” she said. Unfortunately this endeavour has been somewhat hampered by a Ministry of Education directive barring children from visiting art galleries during the week.

“Our hearts bleed to teach the kids to be passionate about arts at a young age. We hope the new directive will not affect our efforts. Also, it is our desire that education directors, parents and guardians will see the value in art. Gone are the days when children are forced to pursue disciplines in which they have no interest.

“Children are gifted with various talents, art included and it is the duty of parents, education directors and us to identify and nurture them. We want all Zimbabweans to understand, love and appreciate art,” said Muusha.

Post published in: Arts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *