Exhibition of Zimbabwean painters’ art comes to Shoreditch

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A COLLECTION of rediscovered early works by young Zimbabwean painters will be available to view by the public for the first time in almost 70 years. 

The Stars are Bright: Zimbabwe through the eyes of its young painters from Cyrene (1940-1947) opens at The Theatre Courtyard Green Rooms in Shoreditch on 15 July.

The free exhibition, opening 10 days after the lockdown on galleries has been lifted, is one of many events being celebrated as London’s arts world reopening this summer.

The Stars are Bright presents a rare collection of intriguing paintings and drawings created by more than 40 Zimbabwean artists over a seven-year period.

It includes works by Samuel Songo, Kingsley Sambo, Timothy Dhlodhlo and others who went on to become the precursors to Zimbabwean Modern Art.

Having been preserved in the basement of the former St Michael and All Angels’ Church, a six-minute walk from where they will now be displayed, the works have not been publicly displayed together since the 1950s.

This new exhibition sheds light on these young artists and a vital chapter of Zimbabwe’s art history.

After the showcase of the collection ends on 30 September, the artworks will tour Zimbabwe to be shown there for the first time since the 1940s.

The 25 large paintings and more than 50 smaller works were created while the artists were students aged 10 to 20 at Cyrene, a boys’ mission school founded in 1940 near Bulawayo in colonial Zimbabwe (then known as Southern Rhodesia) by Edward “Ned” Paterson, a Scottish clergyman.

The Stars are Bright exhibition highlights the richness and variety of techniques, styles and themes, while offering an insight into key moments of Zimbabwe’s life and culture during this colonial phase as interpreted by the artists.

Co-curators Georgia Ward, Chiedza Mhondoro and Jessica Ihejatoh said: “When we began organising The Stars are Bright, which takes its title from a work in the exhibition by Musa Nyahwa dated 1945, we could never have imagined just how much the world would change around us. It is a critical time to share the work of Black artists past and present.

“We encourage viewers to let their imagination take inspiration from the environment in which the artworks were made. The Cyrene paintings remind us that there is no single story of African Art. This exhibition is an exploration of life, the natural world, spirituality and change, all guided by Zimbabwe’s bright young stars.”

As the UK continues to work to control the spread of COVID-19, organisers of the exhibition have put in place various measures to safeguard visitors.

While free to attend, visitors will be required to pre-book a slot. A one-way viewing route will be in place throughout the gallery and there will also be reminders about social distancing. Children are welcome.

For more information and to book, visit TheStarsAreBright.com.


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