Catherine McDermott talked to Raphael Chikukwa, Deputy Director of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) Harare about future plans for the museum.
Would you tell ICOM UK members about NGZ?
In 2017 The National Gallery of Zimbabwe celebrated 60 years, a period which has seen the shift from colonialism to independence and now the new post-Mugabe era, ushering in new dreams and new hope.
I joined the gallery in July 2010 and together with the Executive Director, Mrs. Doreen Sibanda we are planning a new future NGZ. What we need now is the political will to support and run our gallery.
What is NGZ’s history?
In 1943, Sir James McDonald left a bequest of 30,000 pounds “in trust for the people of the colony” to establish an art gallery and museum in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia. The NGZ opened in 1957 with other galleries following, Bulawayo in the 70s and Mutare in the 90s.
What is your role in the NGZ?
I work as the Chief Curator and Deputy Director responsible for conceptualizing and realizing exhibitions in and out of the gallery. These include the first Zimbabwe Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2011 -7, Basket Case II, African Voices: confronting Frontiers of Reality 2017, Kabbo Kamwala (Harare, Kampala and Bremen) 2017. We celebrated our 60th anniversary with the 2nd International Conference on African Cultures attended by museum professionals and creatives from around Africa and the rest of the world.
What challenges face NGZ in 2018?
Funding is our major challenge, working on a shoestring budget is not easy and a lot of creativity is needed to be the Chief Curator of an African public institution. The role and function of a Museum in Africa is still not clearly understood and we are working towards building an audience that can see the value of Museums. NGZ gets 500-600 visitors per month and we would like to double this number. Part of the way forward is changing the toxic past of thinking museums are only for the white people.
What projects is NGZ currently working on?
We are actively seeking collaboration with institutions in Africa and the rest of the world with our next exhibition the Zimbabwean works shown at the 2017 Venice Biennale. We are also busy with working on a publication outlining its history from 1957 to 2017.
What is your vision for the NGZ in the future?
We are open to collaborations with art museums in and out of Africa, in the hope such collaboration with bring new energy to NGZ. Our vision is also to collect more African contemporary art. It is a concern to strengthen our collection with examples from prominent African artists who are not represented in the NGZ at the present time.