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Gukurahundi exhibition pulled down

Angered the authorities ... One of the installations which was taken down Thursday

09/04/2015 00:00:00
by Arts Correspondent
Gukurahundi installation ... Owen Maseko
Gukurahundi artist ventures into music

CONTROVERSIAL visual artist Owen Maseko was Thursday issued with a Supreme Court order to pull down his Gukurahundi inspired paintings at the Bulawayo Art Gallery, five years after the exhibition was banned. 

The exhibition titled 'Sibathontisele' (Lets Drip on Them) consisting of three installations and twelve wall paintings briefly opened at the gallery in March 2010 before state authorities, who have suppressed public debate around the 1980s massacres, shut it down. 

Maseko together with the director of the art gallery, Vote Thebe, were arrested by police. Thebe was later set free. 

The dreadlocked artist was charged with undermining the authority of, or insulting the president and causing offence to persons of a particular race or religion.

Maseko challenged the charges with the assistance of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, until the case was referred to the Supreme Court in 2013, after his lawyers argued that charging their client under the Criminal Law Act was unconstitutional.

The court finally ruled on the case, ordering the artist to remove the exhibition from the gallery and not to put it up again in a public space anywhere in the country. 

At 2pm on Thursday, Maseko in the company of ZLHR lawyer Lizwe Jamela and family members with the help of gallery staff began dismantling the exhibition. 

Complying with court order … Owen Maseko takes his pieces away


Artists and a handful of arts enthusiasts also made their way to the gallery to catch a glimpse of the controversial exhibition.

While the installations were easy to remove, a new paint job is needed on the gallery walls to remove some of the paintings.

According to a report by the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice (CCJP) more than 20 000 civilians in Matabeleland and Midlands were killed by members of the Fifth Brigade.

President Robert Mugabe only described the massacre as "a moment of madness".

His new Vice President, Phelekezela Mphoko torched off a storm when he declared that Mugabe was not involved in the killings. 


Some of the artists who spoke to this publication said the removal of the exhibition signalled another sad chapter on freedom expression in the country. 

This is the second time that a 'controversial' art piece has been removed from the gallery. A four metre statue titled ‘Look into the future’ by Bulawayo artist Adam Madebe, depicting a naked male looking into the future, was removed from the gallery gardens.

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