Imparting a message of tolerance

2010-03-18 00:00

ZIMBABWEAN-born artist Nicky Chovuchovu believes that society needs to be more tolerent and he’s hoping that his first solo exhibition at the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg will help achieve that.

African Colour Notes, which opens in the Schreiner Gallery today, will feature 20 pieces made from a range of media.

These will include the colourful expressionist township paintings which Chovuchovu is best known for, pieces made from found metal objects, which he says he had fun making into musical intruments and other fun things, and a more personal installation — a suitcase filled to bursting with clothes and other items — which was exhibited at the Margate Art Museum­ in December.

The Durban-based artist said that the installation piece was an integral part of the exhibition: “It carries a vital­ message. That message is that we need to be more tolerant of people, especially those who have come to South Africa to find refuge from persecution and hardship in their own countries.

“I would like to tell South Africans, those who persecute some of us, that we do have a home and we are just seeking shelter, due to causes which are out of our control,” Chovuchovu said.

Asked if he had been personally affected by the violent xenophobic attacks which swept the country a few years ago, he says: “No … but it’s [everyday­] situations in the supermarket and minibus taxis that remind you that you are not really welcome.”

It’s that personal experience which makes him believe that tolerance and proper understanding are vital for the smooth integration of people from different­ cultures and geographical areas.

Chovuchovu hopes that through his exhibition he can help to create an environment in which people will feel free to ask questions, to show visitors that cultures can integrate with exciting results, and that non-South Africans can contribute positively to society and the economy.

“I would like people to remember to love unconditionally, just like God loves us, to forgive and let the past be in the past,” he says. “Let’s move on, that way our Africa will be the jewel that it should be.

“We are raised in different places and cultures, but when we’re living together in one city, one surburb… we can learn a lot from each other.”

As for why it’s so important for people­ to be able to speak freely and openly, he says: “It makes life a lot easier­ and smoother if you know where everyone stands, then there is no need for plastic smiles.”

Chovuchovu was inspired to paint by his father Norman, an impressionist whose contemporaries included Kingsley Sambo and Charles Fernando and who would encourage his children­ to go to his studio and watch him work.

“I used to look at his notebook without him knowing and I would watch him paint, which is basically where I learnt my skills. Even now, when I am painting, I always keep in mind what he would think, which helps me along the way.”

Chovuchovu’s father would be proud to see his son’s work hanging in the Tatham Art Gallery, an achievement that is a source of great pride to Chovuchovu.

“I have wanted to show my work at the prestigious Tatham ever since I came to KwaZulu-Natal.”

African Colour Notes will be at the Tatham Art Gallery until April 27. The artist will be in residence on March 30 and 31 and April 1, between 11 am and 3 pm.

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