NYASHA TATENDA CHIGAMA

b. 1988, Harare, Zimbabwe

Lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe

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Chigama is a contemporary artist based in Harare, Zimbabwe. Chigama’s body of work involves use of terracotta and porcelain as mediums of expression and research. The clay she uses which is extracted from anthills and refined brings out the irony that the ant colony is a matriarchal system in which the Queen ant is the power of Government.  Chigama explore the power structures and the existence of domination in eco- politics and this provides her an entry into dialogue on how the systems of domination such as matriarchy and patriarch exist in the shona community.

 

Her ethnic vessels symbolize the dominance in the hierarchical structured societies based on the aesthetical value of the vessels. Her vessels are burnished using the traditional method with a smooth, glassy stone found on the riverbank called ’hurungudo’ (which means polishing stone). The hurungudo symbolizes the slow way in which nature processes rough stones into smooth pebbles which is symbolic of the trans-generational esoteric knowledge of women.

 

In her work, she explores the cultural, social and political location of the contemporary Zimbabwean woman. She does this in an autobiographical way immersing herself in some of those roles and processes of creative production. In her recent body of work, the tedious production of ceramic vessels and the processing of the raw material as a ritual and practice which is mostly ascribed to female bodies. Chigama questions this ascription and seeks to leverage it into something more that menial labor.

 

Working in a background of traditional and contemporary misogyny, she explores ideas of transformative labor and reclaims agency by subverting the traditional function and aesthetic of clay vessels. In a Joy de vivre approach, she investigates ways in which the contemporary Zimbabwean woman can negotiate and thrive in unhealthy Patriarchal domestic and political situations. She creates uncanny vessels that explore the plurality of what it means to be a woman in contemporary African contexts, making vessels that question the basic definition of function and utilitarian politics.

The labor intensive approach to her work is part of autobiographical research in which she seeks ways in which communities of women can be empowered in therapeutic and economic ways in their everyday routine. She explores the notions of ritual and inheritance in connection to women looking at trans-generational sharing of esoteric knowledge among women. Most of her vessel forms are a response to those heirloom ones passed from mother in law to daughter in law for preservation of knowledge and as tokens of motherhood.