Masimba Hwati - The Artist

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

POVO: How has your work developed, since you first ventured into ceramics?
Masimba: My work has developed from just being ceramics to being a fusion of ceramics, wood and found objects. Lately, I have been doing works on a large scale using a lot of space and exploring three dimensional spaces on two dimensional surfaces so you discover that in my work there is less volume of ceramics now and more of wood and other supportive material. This is technical on the greater part, because ceramics can be fragile, especially on a large scale, so I would prefer my works to be more of the durable variety, with small volumes of ceramics in it.

POVO:  Any reason why you chose that particular medium?
Masimba: Ceramics is very special to me, the first reason being not many people in Zimbabwe if any, use ceramics as an expressive medium, just like what people do with paint, and maybe stone. Usually people use ceramics for functional reasons and conventional purposes. I decided to take it further and explore the abstract, the expressive and the Avant-garde, using ceramics and terracotta which not many people did. I mean if I did my research very well i think in Zimbabwe i am one of the few people who uses ceramics in that type of way, because my work is not conventional or utilitarian.
The other reason was more ideological, because according to my fundamental beliefs, it is what God used to make man, who was formed from the dust of the earth. Using that kind of material, connects with me, gives me a sense of warmth and involvement in the creative process that God would have gone through to make man. I feel like I can do a lot with it because the Bible says God breathed life into the earth, into the man, so with my work I think I can impart a lot as I am using ceramics as a medium.

POVO: Influences and Inspiration? 

Masimba: My influences are quite varied but I would like to put them in perspective. For a very long time I have been working with the theme of redefinition, which looks at the law of variation, which states that to every object there are 35 variations, so through my work, I always push to come up with at least 35 more variations of the same model. This is a challenge I have pursued since 2003 up to now whereby I am pushing the limits in a quest to discover what more a thing can be and how else it can it be represented in people’s minds.
I am also inspired by and interested in wood. The processes it goes through especially when it is subjected to nature, you will discover that in a lot of my works most of the wood is has been rained on, drenched by the sun, so it has got a very natural process, testimony of a process you cannot get anywhere else. I also love the warmth that terracotta has, the clay, has got a grace and ancient warmth that in itself inspires me to explore it even more and more giving it new forms and new meanings.

POVO: How many variations are you able to achieve with a certain piece of work?
Masimba: From the 35 variations that I have put as a standard, this is a principle and an idea that we developed while we were students at the Harare Polytechnic - Gareth Nyandoro, Munyaradzi Mazarure and I. We set it up as a challenge for us to push ourselves further into exploring media. But I have not gone beyond 10 variations, despite pushing all my works to the limit and I think the environment that you live in also determines how many variations you get. To French people a fork can mean 5 things and yet to Shona people a fork can mean 20 things, so it also depends on the culture that you find yourself in.

POVO: Which are the role models you look up to? 

Masimba: In the none art field, my inspiration is Strive Masiiwa, the founder of Econet Wireless. He has so much influence and financially he has managed to spread the mobile network all over Africa and he is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and other stock exchanges worldwide. He started from a humble background which most of us would identify with and I like his principle “do not go where there is a path, but go where there is no path and leave a trail”. So for me it’s an inspiration because I see someone who was in the same situation which I find myself in, but this person has pushed the limits and believed in something greater and now he provides a service to so many people around the world. When we come to art, my role model in visual art is Damien Hurst, who came onto the scene about 5 years ago.

POVO: Recent as in he is young or just came onto the scene?
Masimba: Just came onto the scene. I love him for one reason because he has actually broken the myth and tradition in fine art. The myth which Gavin broke is that most fine artists live a Bohemian lifestyle, which is they don't do very well financially, and their romantic relationships are messed up. So, every artist who has made it in the world has got another side which is called fascinating but it is also self-destructive. Damien Hurst, has proved to be different and has gone out to invest his money and is doing well financially and commands a lot of respect. He is not detached from the society, he is not Bohemian he is involved in the cultural and modern society.

POVO: Where is he from? 

Masimba: Damien Hurst is from London and came up about 5 years ago, he was discovered by a guy called Saatchi who was a business man doing marketing in London. He decided to take a group of conceptual artists to promote them so that they could market products and ideas through their work. This is how Damein rose to become a living legend.

POVO: Any upcoming and current latest exhibitions? 

Masimba: My latest exhibition was at Delta Gallery, in November called Redefinitions 2. It was a three man show Gareth Nyandoro, Munyaradzi Mazarure and I. This was a follow up show to one we did at the Delta Gallery under the same title, the idea of this series of shows is to stretch the Law of Variation and present to the public the things that they see every day, but at the same time show them variations of what these things can become. Tapfuma Gutsa was guest the honor and had just come from his 5 year sojourn in Austria. I am looking forward to another show that is opening at the National Gallery on the 19th of January, called Food For Thought. This show features the young contemporary artists who have come up on the scene and is being featured for the first time, so I think it’s a very important show. There is another exhibition of my small works in March in Avignon, in the South of France.

POVO: Tell me about Collaborations with David Chinyama.

Masimba: The idea which we presented to the public was quite unique and quite virgin if I would say because art as an institution is very individualistic, people exist and express as individual entities. We decided to break the myth and discover the result. We came together and did a number of works together, David as a painter and I as a ceramicist featuring found objects. We brought together our ideas and our energies, and came up with something very interesting which I think was very successful as a concept. We were not really expecting anything commercially because at that time work was not selling very well, but the idea was the most important thing to get the merit and to present something new to the public which we achieved.

POVO: You are also into fashion designing and collaborated with Hope Masike?
Masimba: Yes. I have done a lot of costumes for a lot of performing artists. I have done costumes for HIFA for quite some time, for their theatre and other musicians like Dudu Manhenga and Hope Masike. To me it’s just a variation of media, but the same idea the same passion of art and the same skill just needs to be channeled into another medium and then it comes out. So for me it’s not something very new, but just a new language. I have also done set design.

POVO: The set design you did, was it for theatre or film?
Masimba: I have worked with Tsistsi Dangarembwa on a Dudu Manhenga music video shoot. There are also quite a number of small theatres that i have done during HIFA.

POVO: how do you promote yourself and your art? 

Masimba: Recently I have been working on a website- which is going to be out very soon. I have taken the initiative to market myself, because we are coming from a very consumerist background whereby artists are waiting for other people to come and promote them. I think we have had a harsh awakening in that regard, so I have taken the initiative to get my own website designed to broaden my marketing and reach to potential clients all over the world.