FIREBRAND visual artist Owen Maseko, once jailed for displaying visuals depicting the Matebeleland Gukurahundi massacres, has ventured into music, giving protest works another platform.
Maseko was in 2010 arrested for crafting images of the 1980s Matebeleland and Midlands atrocities carried out by the Zimbabwe National Army’s Five Brigade at the instigation of then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe.
Independent estimates place the deaths at over 20,000 civilians, the majority being Ndebele speaking population of the western parts of the country.
It is almost taboo to speak about the killings. The furthest President Mugabe has gone in owning up to the transgression was to describe the killings as “an act of madness”.
But Maseko, who says he was amazed by the continued silence by the authorities and ordinary Zimbabweans on the atrocities, has vowed to break the taboo through composing songs which both protest and lament the brutal incidents.
Although yet to put his songs together into a complete album, ready for distribution, the Bulawayo-based artist has since started public performances of his music.
Maseko’s productions also include the songs Gukurahundi, a sad chant about ‘Gukurahundi’ and ‘Sesiphoselwa emajele’, meaning ‘we are arbitrarily being incarcerated for nothing’.
The human rights artist’s musical offerings also include the song Siqoqo-door. Siqoqo-door is a corrupted version of the Ndebele word siqoqodo (hothead).
The message in it declares that we are also hot-headed enough to dare them, demanding answers on why we are always targeted for persecution.
“Here l am playing around with the Ndebele language,” Maseko says.
“l mean, sometimes you have to be so brave and daring enough to persistently knock and try to open those dreaded political doors which many people of light hearts will not dare to knock.
“Coincidentally, there are political hotheads inside those doors.”
Maseko said most of his songs are political but some are social commentary inspired by everyday experiences in the country’s second largest city.
He continues: “One of my songs also speaks about the futility of voting during national elections here in Matebeleland where we continue to vote knowing though that our ‘X’ will not count because the results are always predetermined.Advertisement
“You find that your ‘X’ in the ballot is just as good as chopping your head off with an ‘axe’.”
Maseko also spoke about reasons behind mixing visual art with music.
“I just wanted that link between my visual arts and music so that whatever l write on my paintings can transcend to music and be heard because music reaches a much wider audience than visual arts which have a limited market,” said the 39-year-old father of three.
Maseko was in 2010 arrested and charged with undermining the authority of, or insulting the president and causing offence to persons of a particular race or religion.
Following his arrest, Maseko’s paintings, which portrayed the torture and massacres of innocent civilians by soldiers, were removed from the gallery.
The Constitutional Court recently ruled that some sections of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9.23 that deal with insulting the president are unconstitutional in a landmark ruling likely to see a mass withdrawal of similar cases which had flooded the courts.