Kudzanai Chiurai

Kudzanai Chiurai: an artist and mordant political critic whose vision – nightmarish yet utterly sophisticated – uses multimedia to confront a range of disturbing issues. 

Kudzanai Chiurai, born in 1981 in Zimbabwe, was the first black artist to graduate from the School of Fine Arts at the University of Pretoria. Today this internationally renowned artist lives and works in South Africa. Intensely creative and versatile, he is a multimedia artist who uses painting, photography, performance, installation and video.

Today known for his politically oriented works, Chiurai began his career with another focus altogether. “I used to paint flowers,” he says. In 1999, when he arrived to study in South Africa, Chiurai discovered the political movements of African refugees exiled in South Africa, and in particular the groups of Zimbabwean exiles. These were to influence his work.

Chiurai intertwines his sources of inspiration, taking ideas from the most diverse media including official images, series made by contemporary artists and street art.

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His series entitled Cabinet, which Cape and Cape long exhibited at our Paris boutique, shows a fictive African government where Siyabonga Ngwekazi, a TV presenter and fashion designer, plays the role of each of the figures. A scathing yet waggish criticism of political power, The Minister of Education (inserer photo minister of education.jpg) is shown wearing glasses and a school uniform, encyclopaedias in hand and a revolver tucked into his belt. The Minister of Finance (inserer photo minister of finance.jpg) is dressed up to the nines with an opulent fur coat and gold teeth.

The artist makes use of stereotypes and reduces African leaders to a mere parody of themselves. These large-scale formats give us a witty glimpse of blatant corruption and succeed in being both nightmarish and extremely stylish. Chiurai raises questions about the aesthetics of propaganda and the visual heritage of power in action. Other themes he explores are related to masculinity and power.

The Goodman Gallery has held several solo exhibitions of his work (2009 and 2010), as have the Brixton Art Gallery (2003) and the Obert Contemporary Gallery (Johannesburg 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007).

Chiurai has participated in Dak’art (2006), Africa Now (2008), Paris Photo (2009), the International Cairo Biennale (2010) and “My Joburg” at La Maison Rouge in Paris (2013).  His works have been exhibited at New York’s MOMA and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

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