COMRADES / Tapfuma Gutsa
COMRADES / Tapfuma Gutsa
Born in 1956, Harare, Zimbabwe. Lives and works in Murehwa, Zimbabwe.
Gutsa is unequivocally the most revered and beloved figure of contemporary art in Zimbabwean art. A pioneer, who began his career as a stone sculptor studying under Cornelius Manguma at the Driefontein Mission School, which produced such luminaries like Nicholas Mukomberanwa and Joseph Ndandarika, he broke away from the purist stone tradition to look inwards to Zimbabwean indigenous art traditions, materials from clay and weaving to wood and horns and methods in a way that was a break through not only for Zimbabwean contemporary art but also internationally.
At Gutsa’s farm. (Left to Right) Thako Patel, Tapfuma Gutsa, Chido Johnson, Masimba Hwati, 2016.
Like his friend and contemporary of the legendary Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera, Gutsa went to study in Britain in the 1980s, going on to establish and international career, with museum and gallery exhibitions ranging from Havanna Biennale, Cuba, Contemporary African Art, Studio Museum, Harlem New York City, USA 1990 and taking part in the 1991 Venice Biennale, African Pavilion a project curated by Grace Stanislaus and South Meets West a survey featuring Artists: Jane Alexander, South-Africa, Fernando Alvim, Angola, Meschac Gaba, Benin, Kendell Geers, South-Africa, Tapfuma Gutsa, Zimbabwe, Atta Kwami, Ghana, Goody Leye, Cameroon, Zwelethu Mthethwa, South-Africa, Tracey Rose, South-Africa, Yinka Shonibare, Nigeria, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Kamerun, Yacouba Touré, Elfenbeinküste, Minnette Vari, Südafrika, Dominique Zinkpe, Benin and Uncomfortable Truths: The Shadow of Slave Trading on Contemporary Art at Victoria & Albert Museum which was held in 2007 and featured among others El Anatsui, Romouald Hazumé, Lubaina Himi, Yinka Shonibare and Fred Wilson as well as Gutsa and which laid some of the key foundations for reception of contemporary African art we are seeing today.
At the same time Gutsa has always worked with a sense of paying it forward and social responsibility, keenly aware of the importance of supporting emerging artists not just in Zimbabwe but across Africa and beyond. He was the first mentor and teacher to his now famous cousin Dominic Benhura and his workshops done with the Triangle Network are legendary from Kenya to Mozambique and Botswana but also in Kingston, Jamaica where he did a workshop at Xayamaca in 1993. In the era when African avant-garde was just forming Gutsa was part of the legendary Pachipamwe International Art Workshop which brought together such incredible luminaries like Bill Ainslie, Sokari Douglas Camp, David Koloane, Adam Madebe, Bernard Matemera, Antonio Ole as well as Gutsa.
After living between Zimbabwe and Europe for almost a decade in the early 2000s, Gutsa came back to Zimbabwe in 2009. Finding the small struggling young community emerging from the crisis of hyperinflation and isolation, he immediately re-engaged with the emerging artists community of Harare as an inspirational leader, joining the National Gallery of Zimbabwe as Deputy Director. His ‘Live and Direct’ exhibition is 2011, is regarded as a catalyst for the flourishing of contemporary art we are seeing today in Zimbabwe
and features young and experimental artists from Moffat Takadiwa to Wycliffe Mundopa, Gareth Nyandoro and Misheck Masamvu with new large and daring works.
Returning to the studio in 2011Gutsa represented Zimbabwe in the first Zimbabwean Venice Biennale Pavilion, while establishing a studio at Harare Polytechnic art department incorporating young artists in his practice.
The twin passions of collaboration and looking to indigenous culture and materials for inspiration are manifest in all of his recent major projects like Basket Case – a workshop and exhibition curated by Christine Eyene which brought together contemporary artists in conversation with the incredible skill and talent of Tonga basket weavers in 2015 and Mutations and Permutations an new major exhibition of new works at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in collaboration with his two students – Daniel Chimurure and Ronald
The past few years have been a time of contemplation and in many ways laying down a foundations for his legacy. He decided to return to his ancestral home in Murehwa and use his land to start developing a major new project – a sustainable artist residency, which could both house artists, support studio practice but also involve artists in traditional farming practices – cultivation of crops and fruit, fish farming and raising animals to create a self-sufficient immersive environment, where artists and young urban artists in
particular can reconnect with the land and in practice and in spirit.
ZCCD Research Fellow, Haleem “Stringz” Rasul visiting Tapfuma Gutsa at his Harare studio at Polytech in 2015.