by First Floor Gallery Harare
A contemporary art exhibition titled Chakafukidza by rising local artist and sculptor Julio Rizhi is on show at First Floor Gallery Harare. The exhibition features an attractive body of 12 medium to large size sculptures made from recycled molten plastic, plastic fibres, wire and wire mesh.
Chakafukidza is a Shona idiom which paints whole worlds in a word. The title comes as a shortened version of “Chakafukidza dzimba matenga”, a proverb, which translates with deceptive simplicity as ‘a roof covers what’s inside a home’. While superficially overlapping with ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ and concepts of ‘not wearing your heart on your sleeve’ and ‘saving face’ like many Shona proverbs chakafukidza describes the complex world and philosophy around of social and spatial relations, traditional and contemporary and historical.
Chakafukidza is a prompt for a nuanced interpretation of any phenomena – not judging events superficially, looking for and expecting deeper context to every phenomenon and how different phenomena can and do co-exist.
Given that background, Julio Rizhi’s exhibition looks at the complex social and historical layering that colours the many stories and legends of his home neighbourhood of Mbare in Harare. Mbare is an urban ‘port’ and one of the country’s most colourful, multicultural and notorious townships. Like most “high density” areas of Harare, Mbare is overwhelmingly young and its youth are growing up in a country full of potential but with many promises yet few established pathways for realizing the dreams of the young majority. On the surface for some, a quick walkthrough Mbare can paint a picture of privation, crowding, pollution and decay. A deeper look takes you through the old migrant labour movements, the rich revolutionary history, a crucible in which social and political tensions exploded and lastly a cradle of talent and ingenuity.
The Mbare Rizhi wants us to focus on in his Chakafukidza exhibition is one that is understood in the context of and recognised by the critical needs and possibilities of its future. It is this urgency that underpins the complex and exhilarating beauty of Rizhi’s artworks. Plastic is the universal symbol for pollution but Julio melts it and like molten plastic, the young people are vibrant, complex and beyond control unpredictable.
“Younger generations often feel misunderstood and not treated seriously by the older generation,” says Rizhi, “But deep inside they are full of potential, ideas and need to grow beyond the limitations of their neighbourhood and old ways of doing things which don’t match the new world they are growing up in. The plastic is exploding through the wire mesh is about that energy.” So does the vinyl rope cut lose and erupting into fountains of colour making the colours of the Zimbabwean flag in one of the works. Chakafukidza is a story of both the beauty and wealth of potential and the urgency to realise it right under the roof of our house, Zimbabwe.
Gallery director Marcus Gora adds that “I would like to congratulate Julio Rizhi on his current solo exhibition. The year 2020 has pushed us to see the edges of what is considered personal space, personal freedom and personal responsibility. The Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic difficulties present new challenges on top of prevailing ones. Julio Rizhi’s Chakafukidza is an exhibition, shines the light on Mbare, urging us to take time to understand it, to listen to it, to be entertained by it, to value our space and place and how all that can transform and empower all of us.”