Zimbabwe on exploration of its kombi aesthetics

An aged dirty white minibus popularly known as a “kombi”, in a dilapidation state now enjoys a new lease of life and special attention at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare

Pimp My Combi is an exploration of the minibus as a marker of vernacular aesthetics and cultural codes, as well as a vehicle defining both urban landscape and social space throughout Africa.

Pimp My Combi is the name of 2011 edition of Gwanza, the Month of Photography exhibition now showing at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare. This year’s selection has paid close attention to the documentary relevance, technical quality and aesthetic value of the work submitted by local photographers.

Pimp my Combi highlights works by Southern and East African photographers to foster dialogue within and beyond Zimbabwean borders. The photographers and artists selected for Gwanza 2011 are Ignatius Mabasa, Berry Bickle, Christopher Hunt, Angela Jimu, Mbali Khoza, Remmy Marimo, Annie Mpalume, Nancy Mteki, Bethule Nkiwane, Believe Nyakudjara, Resta Nyamwanza, Nyadzombe Nyempenza, and Zinyange Ruzvidzo. Also featured are an US-based Zimbabwean installation artist Chido Johnson and South African video artist Breeze Yoko. The theme was proposed by Raphael Chikukwa, curator at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. and a London-based curator Christine Eyene, who was publishing director of Africultures from 2006 to 2009.

Resta Nyamwanga’s documented bus accident

The show welcomes people with an abstract of “Yakadhakwa Nyika”, a poem by renowned Zimbabwean author Ignatius Mabasa evoking the kombi as a common feature in daily lives of Africans. Written in 2007, this poem, published in musical form and played in the “kombi” placed within the exhibition space, resonates with recent news of tragic road accidents that have claimed the lives of many.

In addition to the main exhibition that opened on August 4 and runs until September 4, 2011, Gwanza 2011 includes a public programme developed in partnership with the British Council, which saw the launch of the Bulawayo Conversations on July 26, 2011 at the National Gallery in Bulawayo, and hosting the Harare Conversations on August 6 at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare, alongside workshops and portfolio reviews.

Founded in 2003, by acclaimed Zimbabwean photographer Calvin Dondo, Gwanza Arts is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the development and promotion of photography.

Gwanza hosts the biggest annual photography exhibition in Zimbabwe and by so doing provides a platform for interaction between local and international photographers.

The 2011 edition of Gwanza is supported by the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, British Council, Culture Fund, Hivos, Spanish Embassy, Cuban Embassy and all the prints are produced by 4toz Digital, Harare.


A presentation of Gwanza 2011 will be held on 7 October 2011, at the Musée du Quai Branly (known in English as the Quai Branly Museum, nicknamed MQB, this Paris-based museum features indigenous art, cultures and civilizations from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas) as part of the round table “The Studio and The World”, in conjunction with Photoquai – Biennial of World Images co-curated by Christine Eyene.

For the first time, Gwanza will be followed up by a more comprehensive exhibition at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in January 2012, featuring visual artists and photographers from across the African continent.

Nancy Mteki (Zimbabwe) 2011

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