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Owen Maseko’s painting of the 1987 Unity Accord between Robert Mugabe (ZANU) and Joshua Nkomo (ZAPU) which brought the ZANU-PF party into existence. The painting shows a bloodied Nkomo bending over the accord, while Mugabe is the other individual seated at the table. (via VOA)

Last weekend, artist Owen Maseko was arrested by police for an exhibition at the National Gallery in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. According to the Associated Press:

… [he] collected family photos of missing people, images of mine shafts where bodies were believed dumped and reports on an armed uprising after independence in 1980 in the western Matabeleland district that was crushed by troops loyal to Mugabe. Thousands of civilians were massacred in the fighting.

Attorney Kucaca Phulu said that Maseko, his client, spent the weekend in jail on incitement charges after police shut down the exhibit in Bulawayo …

Voice of America describes one of Maseko’s controversial images [pictured above]:

The most striking image shows the late Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe signing an accord leading to a unity government. In the painting Nkomo is slumped across the table, blood dripping from his shoulders. Behind the two leaders is a line of men all wearing dark glasses, whom many presume are members of the Central Intelligence Organization.

His wife, Sharn Maseko, told SW Radio Africa news:

… they have covered the windows with newspapers so that people are not allowed to see the exhibition from the streets and also the public are not allowed access to the exhibition, which is obviously very disappointing because as an artist you do art for the people. So to deny the people access to that art has a very negative impact to the art industry and on Owen as an artist.

Maseko’s exhibit was schedule to run through April.

This is the second exhibition closed by Zimbabwean authorities. Earlier that same week, a photography exhibition in Harare by Okay Machisa was shut down. The show depicted political violence in the 2008 elections.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

4 replies on “Police in Zimbabwe Shut Down Art Exhibit Exploring Violence”

  1. Hey Hrag – Stories of censorship like this break my heart. Just a quick question if you have time to answer.

    What level of control do the Zimbabwean authorities have over the country’s press? Has shutting down these art shows created a backlash that only draws further attention to these grim truths?

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