Masimba Hwati and the State of the Nation

Art & Design | By Masimba Hwati, Fine Artist | 04 April 2013
PHOTO: © Baynham Goredema

POVO: Tell us about the state of the nation…
Masimba: As you know the three principals agreed on a couple of important issues and things have been smooth for the greater part because of the financial stability that is there now. People can afford to buy things which are now readily available, so certain parties have come together and sort of like resumed their business in Zimbabwe. Although we still have a number of issues that I think need to be resolved by the three principals. There are a lot of agreements which have been breached which need to be sorted out, so all these things that affect us economically as artists also determine the kind of clientele that looks at our work. We are still in the process of trying to build something, this idea of a government of national unity is something that we are still experimenting with and we want to see how far it goes.

POVO: When I came, the three principals held a press conference to resolve all the outstanding issues by the 1st of January. How do you see that playing out?
Masimba: I just hope that the public will keep them accountable to those words because you know politics is a game and people say a one thing then do another. Everyone wants issues to be resolved, everyone wants agreements to be honored and this is where we really come in and say if they can honor their agreement then I think everything will go on smoothly.

POVO: What has made you stay in Zimbabwe despite having opportunities to go to other places?
Masimba: I was teaching at the Harare polytechnic which to me was a responsibility that I took with all my heart because I represent a new generation of artists who believe in a different ideology and that DNA had to be infused in the next generation, so I think I have also played a part in shaping the future of art in Zimbabwe. Harare Polytechnic is one of the most recognised colleges with a valid product in terms of the arts and I have also contributed there. I also want to and I'm in the process of establishing a support system for myself and the arts in general at home. I've been working on something called Studio Harare for two years now with a couple of guys, an actual space for artists to develop themselves after college and earn a living as professional artists. We are almost done with the setting up of the studio so I can be free to go wherever I want safe in the knowledge that I have something to fall back on back home. Often, the trend has been that most artists who have gone out into the international stage to exhibit, have nothing to show for their success abroad when they come back to Zimbabwe, they are poorer and lack influence and respect and I don't want to perpetuate that kind of trend.

POVO: What are your expectations in the new constitution, which single issue would you like to see addressed?
Masimba: I think the issue of art education is very important and the allocation of resources to the art sector because the arts in Zimbabwe are not yet considered as an industry. I would like authorities to look into the arts education and the investment of resources into the art world.

POVO: If you were given $1 billion which social issue would you like to tackle?
Masimba: I really would like to establish an institution that combines art, health and psychology which has been a dream of mine for some time because if you look in Zimbabwe we are a society that is very conventional and that is very utilitarian. The idea of art in Europe is different from Zimbabwe and for art to benefit Zimbabwean people, we need to find something that is direct and contributes or adds value to the people. If you just look at the areas of health psychology and art, they are very important areas but unfortunately the kind of approach that we have which is adapted from Europe cannot really contribute directly, unless if you combine it with psychology and health. Art therapy then comes into play and we begin to develop a lot of ideas around how art can help in the health sector and how it can contribute in occupational therapy and how it can contribute in psychology. I have worked with doctors before on my project but I have discovered that there is more that needs to be done if we are to develop art as a holistic institution. Most developing countries like South Africa have an art therapy institution and we would like to establish something like that so that we move on with the times and develop a more holistic approach to human health through the combination of these three disciplines.

POVO: Your definition of Patriotism?
Masimba: The expression of your passion for your country even in the most embarrassing, difficult situations that you can be faced with. I gave an example the other time about a film called Zimbabwe that I watched in France which was not very balanced nor properly researched because it dwelt more on the negative. It was media propaganda where by Zimbabwe was portrayed as a very desperate, poor and less intelligent nation and my protest towards that film was to walk out of that lecture theatre and refuse to answer any questions. To me it was an expression of patriotism because I could not answer any questions on something that was not a true representation of Zimbabwe. I was surrounded by a lot of French people and people from other French speaking countries but I had to stand for my country, I had to defend what I knew was right. I could not compromise just because they paid for my air ticket and everything else. I had to stand my ground and show how much I believe in my country wherever I am.

POVO: You don't think that was an opportunity missed to actually tell them the right story about Zimbabwe?
Masimba: We could say that but then the other thing is that I was dealing with people who were already set in their minds and who had already seen and contributed to one hour of a film that was showing the other side of Zimbabwe. They were not even interested in looking at the history of Zimbabwe and I think there was a lot of personal justification involved in the making of whole film, so to me I think I was a bit emotional. I think I lived right; to really express my true Zimbabwean spirit and refused any association with things that didn’t accurately represent Zimbabwe.

POVO: Who or what is God?
Masimba: God is the source of life – he’s everything, the reason we are alive, the reason why I do what I do. He is the architect of my future he is the dream weaver, all these dreams that I am talking about, everything that I am saying to you right now is because God put it in my heart, so he is the center that makes every piece balance because if you remove Him everything doesn't make sense. So to me God is the ultimate.

POVO: And what happens when we die?
Masimba: The bible is very clear that when we die, if we are in a relationship with Jesus Christ and received him as our lord and savior then we gain eternal life in his presence but if we are not in relation with him then there is eternal damnation for us then we go to hell.

POVO: 2010 and beyond?
Masimba: 2010 is my year of preparation for study and of wrapping together a lot of other things and also for another social stage of my life. I need to get married in 2010

POVO: OK, when do you intend to get married?
Masimba: Marry in October then wed in December and enroll at Michelles School of Art at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2011b going to do my post grad there and eventually I will see what happens but I would also like to do my masters at the same place and I have been writing a book and I think going to Michelles will give me a chance of proper research for me to write that book, my target is by 2014 the book should be out and I have two other books which I intend to write but that is after I get the first one out.

POVO: Parting words a word for aspiring artists.
Masimba: Just like what Strive Masiiwa said. Do not go where there is a path but go where there is no path and leave a trail.

POVO: A word for Zimbabweans
Masimba: My word for Zimbabweans is that we need to embrace what God has given us as a country and then stop comparing ourselves with other nations but really find out what God has for us as a nation and then chart a way forward on that foundation.

POVO: Zimbabwe is the best country in the world because...
Masimba: Because Zimbabwe has the most beautiful and hospitable people, the most kind and loving. You can actually see the level of violence in Zimbabwe is actually very low. We have had every reason to revolt and riot and create chaos but there is something in our nature that is peaceful and calming. Many people will mistake this for docility and fear but if there is a spirit that prevents blood shed then it must be from God.  

POVO: Masimba, thank you very much for your time and expertise.
Masimba: The pleasure is all mine.

POVO: We hope to catch up with you again in 2010 for more words of wisdom
Masimba: Definitely, thank you very much