Sunday, 24 January 2016

Chitenge adorned

Chitenge is an  African fabric similar to a sarong and is worn by women and girls, wrapped around the chest or waist, over the head as a headscarf, or as a baby sling. Where I come from in the far north of Malawi women and girls wear chitenges every day. 

I often wonder if a chitenge is a symbol of the African woman's oppression where I recall as a child my grandmother threatening to beat us when we walked around our house in jeans, 'inappropriately dressed' she would say...Malawi for a long time and certainly in her time banned the wearing trousers and short skirts were unthinkable to boot! 

I have enjoyed capturing women near my village Ekwendeni going about their daily lives adorned in their chitenges...

The chitenge, whether a symbol of oppression or not plays another role of signifiiance, it levels the playing field to some extent among women...Some wear makeup and beautiful designer dresses under their chitenges and others wear their worn clothes and are relieved to cover them up with the more affordable chitenge which is replaced more often than a new wardrobe.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Progressive Africa: Siya So - Kampala Art Beinnale 2014

My interview with Uganda TV - Photo by Lauren

Last week I travelled to Kampala, Uganda to represent Zimbabwe in an Africa wide art exhibition titled, The Kampala Art Biennale. The biennale which was launched on Friday 1st August 2014 “is a showcase of contemporary art from Africa with the goal to expose, educate and create debate about the value of art in society.” 
Whist over in Kampala at the opening of the exhibition I was interviewed by Uganda TV and asked to comment about my work, the theme of the exhibition which is "Progressive Africa" and about working as an artist in Africa and the role of female artists in Africa. I said said that, “Women in Art start at a disadvantage where we are not considered to be an indigenous player as the art world is very masculine. At the same time we have a rare opportunity to make ourselves heard and calve a place for ourselves in these spaces if we are committed to our craft, not distracted by those who do not pay us regard and if we uplift each other and motivate and encourage each other as women to progress.”

My submission: Siya So

My submission to the biennale is a series of images titled: “Siya So”
Siya So is an informal trade market place made out of makeshift structures in an area called Mbare in Harare, Zimbabwe where grassroots entrepreneurs are creating employment for themselves in an economic environment where there is approximately 80% unemployment. These tradesmen and women pride themselves in the reputation that there is nothing they cannot make or fix. They not only have created employment for themselves but they employ and train apprentices and some even train their wives who come along and help them to maximize the income for the family.

Exhibited Images (Artwork) below:

Title: Tiri Tese
Title: Navo Vakadzi

 My Sponsors

A huge THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to Hivos and The Cultured Fund who enabled me to travel via their Artist Mobility Fund.

A huge thank you also to an little known yet awesome organisation who gave me their assistance and support called Women in Management, Business and Development Trust [WIMBD]. Its ‘a local NGO that supports women and enables them to fulfil their dreams.’

About the Exhibition (if you will be in Kampala in August)

The venues for the biennale are; Uganda Museum, Nommo Gallery and Makerere Art Gallery where 100 artworks including paintings and photographs from 45 artists from 13 African countries working under the theme Progressive Africa are being exhibited. 

The other selected artists from Zimbabwe are Tashinga Matindike Gondo, Danisile Ncube and Nick Monro. The Kampala Art Biennale will continue until the 31st of August 2014.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

GIZ [Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH] 2014 calendar image of Joina City

Joina City, Harare, Zimbabwe

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH or GIZ is an international enterprise owned by the German Federal Government, operating in many fields across more than 130 countries. 

I was invited by GIZ to supply an image of a building in Harare Zimbabwe called Joina City for their 2014 calendar which I did! 

Above is the image GIZ finally chose which is the image for May 2014 in their calender that has been distributed international to all 130 countries they operate in.

Below is the alternative image if Joina City Harare.

Joina City, Harare, Zimbabwe

Thursday, 6 February 2014


TOWERA - meaning; ‘The beautiful one that pleases my heart.’

As I gazed into the beautiful brown eyes of my five week old daughter through the lens of my camera, I pondered the narrative of the African Woman; the assumption of weakness, stigma of disabling poverty and hardship that automatically come with it. I realised that she would carry these as a heavy weight on her shoulders simply by being born of me unless I give her an alternative narrative, a different story of what an African Woman is and could be in her story...The endless possibilities that a different perspective can give.

 Whilst I could not change her gender, race or country of origin, which to some may be her biggest hurdles; I realised that I would have to deliberately impart in her a passion for ‘Self’. I would have to spark a creative fire deep within her soul that would allow her to see beyond the lens that would keep her frozen in this debilitating frame that is the global view of, ‘The [African] Girl Child’. I would show her ‘how I made it in Africa’, how I wrote my own story and decided to be all I could be firmly living outside the ‘proverbial box’.

I will teach her all my parents taught me; the belief that regardless of my gender, creed or colour, I too could be a ‘force of nature’ that the world would have to sit up and take notice of. Being an African Woman is not a curse or a cross she has to bare, but a badge of honour for those who embrace all that it means. I will show her through my life story that she can be everything her heart desires and all that her talents enable her to be.

I was raised in a time where a black African’s aspirations where limited to professions as a  doctor, lawyer, accountant, engineer...something with a perceived gravitas that is attained by consistent and focused study, the more ‘certificates’ the better right up to the coveted ‘doctorate’ level which for many represents the ‘holy grail’. For a ‘girl child’ to be taken seriously, this need for formal education is not just an aspiration but a heavy burden and not easily accessible for the majority. Creative talent / skills are viewed as hobbies at best and a waste of time for the formally uneducated girl. I found myself passionate about photography whilst in law school as a result of these social views.  My traditional African parents chose to be supportive of my ‘art’ but they were insistent that I become a professional as ‘one cannot live on art in this world’. Without hindrance or the stiff resistance which the average female artist would face before she looked beyond the borders of her home, I was free to write a different narrative. I pursued photography passionately whilst fulfilling my commitment to study. I follow all my dreams and do so with passion and without apology. The result is that I am genuinely ‘all I can [and want to] be’. This gift my parents gave me I will pass on to my daughter, emancipating her from social and traditional views of what she can be because she is a black African Woman.

For Towera I persevere, I continue to dream and hold fast to the belief that every woman can be whatever she wants to be and that she should embrace every opportunity that comes her way. I will keep on living life in full colour not just in black and white. I will continue to express myself creatively with my camera and tell my story and the stories of other women like me who dare to write a different narrative of the black African Girl Child.  I will strive to be the best version of myself and ultimately I will stand tall with pride and embrace the names that tell the different elements of my story and make me who I am...

Daughter. Sister. Wife. Mother. Woman. Black. African.  
Lawyer. Professional. Entrepreneur. Philanthropist. Artist. Photographer.


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