Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Clyde Bango: "Under the Tree"

Contemporary African artists are taking us on journeys through time, space, culture and the natural environment, as old as time, as new as we care to make it.  Artlife, Zimbabwe 

Chicuva 2011 by Clyde Bango

                                                             Prelude to Zimbabwe

by Victoria Mares

On  April 18, 2012 Zimbabwe celebrated  32 years of independence from British colonialism that stripped the people from their land and claimed it as Southern Rhodesia, an apartheid nation. Zimbabwe is a place of great, ancient civilizations and a strong presence of contemporary artists that speak through their creative works of truth, and vision. Even as the people of Zimbabwe have suffered an extreme brutality and absence of justice under the hand of Robert Mugabe, reigning as president of the country for 32 years during which he turned despot, a critical mass of creative people still survive and thrive. With genius, clarity, passion, courage and hope, people in the arts speak and critique through their art and literature, nationally and internationally. Artists, artisans, musicians, writers and academics from Zimbabwe have stopped by or even settled in Maine, as they have in places across the globe. That their work exists seems a dichotomy to what has happened to Zimbabwe. Perhaps it will be these artistic creators that will preserve the peoples’ dream of a fair and just Zimbabwe whose people and cultural richness have survived various man-made catastrophes for over a millennium.


 Clyde Bango

Zimbabwean Artist,Biochemist and  Dream Keeper

Article written by Victoria Mares at Affinity Arts

Pasi Pemuti  “Under the Tree

Clyde Bango came into the Museum of African Art and Culture (MofAC) in Portland, Maine for his first show there carrying one of his tree sculptures. His small build and fresh face with sincere eyes, an easy smile and quiet voice made no announcement of the power of his intent.  His friends and art colleagues  from the Maine community and Bates College, his alma mater, helped to deliver the pieces for the exhibit as he worked on his artist's statement for the show, about to open in a couple of hours. He  helped MofAC director Oscar Mokeme to place the first tree on a pedestal, and then another and another. The wire trees had a subtle sheen that augmented their grace and life.  Trees... they keep our environment from going dry and the precious nutrients in the soil and the soil itself from eroding away to bring famine of body and humanity. Clyde  dedicated his show to the late Dr. Wangari Maathi, the woman environmentalist that recovered Kenyan land with a lifetime long campaign of  re-planting  trees and the lives 

The Museum of African Art and Culture in the heart of the Portland, Maine Art District showed the work of Zimbabwean artist Clyde Bango in the Fall of 2011 and into early 2012. The opening of the show “Pasi Pemuti, Under the Tree,” was just months after the young artist had graduated from Bates College in Lewiston Maine with a double major  in Biochemistry and Visual Arts.

 “I am not just originally from Zimbabwe… I am Zimbabwean. I like being from Mbare, more than just Harare. As for the rural areas, I’m from Musami in Murewa. When you visit, just ask for Bango Village,” said Clyde in his artist’s statement. 

So, I grew up in Mbare. Some people called it a tough neighborhood. I call it inspiring township. Art thrives in every sector. We boast visual artists, con artists, pick up artists, performance artists, musicians, dancers, poets, and many undefined artists. You see Mbare is where it all begins, simply because there are never-ending reasons to dream.                                                                                                    
My artwork is merely a glimpse of my home. No models could do justice to the rich culture of our rural communities.

Imba YeUswa 2, 2011

Galvanized Utility Wire


...A style of brick house crowned
 with straw-thatched roofs is
 traditional to the Zimbabwean
 culture. They are still found in
 the rural areas, where my mother resides to this day.

                                 Clyde Bango

Amai neHuni

Here’s an image that you get to see across many parts of Africa. It is a symbol of the hardworking women who comprise the backbone of families and communities. The most amazing part is that the women work tirelessly yet gracefully. I hope this only marks the beginning of my series to honor the African Women. My dream is that if more women were involved in African politics… maybe they would instill unrivaled work ethic towards greater development. I’m just an artist, what do I know?”.
                                                                                        Clyde Bango

du du muDuri


Mortar and pestle… well, more than just the simple utensils. I remember waiting around to lick peanut butter that stuck on the walls of the mortar, or chasing away the pestering chickens that tried to pick up grain that spilled on the ground. While the women pounded (maize, millet, sorghum, groundnuts), songs often accompanied the ‘thud’ sounds of the process. du du muDuri...
                                               Clyde Bango


As a Visual Arts and Biochemistry major Clyde kept his life-long dreams and honored his parents’ wishes. . In Mbare his parents had hoped that he would grow up to study medicine and Clyde had thought of finding a cure for a viral disease, even for AIDS, work that would make a difference in Zimbabwe and the world. His art comes out of fond childhood memories of growing up in his village, and the fire he keeps within, fueled with, hope for the people and his country, his dreams as an artist, and as a person that will make a difference. In his work, the graceful art pieces articulate the beauty he sees in everything, and his understanding and experience of the hard realities that can crush a people and a nation. The beautiful structure honoring the traditional Zimbabwean house is ethereal in its airy gracefulness yet strong by its engineering under the hand of the artist weaving it with a thread of wire that does not readily reveal a beginning or end. The structure could be a metaphor for Zimbabwe’s ancient legacy, the Great Zimbabwe of the 11th to the 15th centuries.

Section of the Great Enclosure
The Great Zimbabwe is the largest of 300 living complexes built of stone. The ancient city, with massive 36 foot high walls built of granite slabs and constructed without mortar is known as the Great Enclosure. It meandered in graceful curves over 820 square miles. The Great Zimbabwe covered 1800 acres and existed as an international trade center, destination for traders from India, China and the Middle East attracted to the city’s plentiful gold and copper mines, and work of artisans that made distinctive pottery, and works in ivory and gold. Even though archaeological opportunities to thoroughly discover this civilization of Africans were destroyed by the greed and arrogance of 19th and 20th century European explorers, plunderers and colonizers, the Great Enclosure still stands today for us to wonder at its structure and puzzle over its beginnings that have kept it standing.

With earning a scholarship to Bates college came decision-making time. A number of opportunities confronted him in both science and art as he proved to be an excellent student. Clyde chose both. The art major gave him the opportunity to do a semester in Panama working in art,  and research work in science at Bates. However, between entering Bates and graduation, Clyde was to face an incalculable challenge. It required commitment to college and to the family and community that had nurtured his life and success. He worked multiple jobs to make sure his parents and family survived the harsh edicts of President Robert Mugabe that destroyed homes, communities, killed Zimbabweans, their livelihoods and economy between 2005 and 2009. 

Self Portrait

Galvanized Utility Wire, Wood, Chrome Metal Handcuffs

In my country, the rule of law is that one is guilty before proven innocent. The police can arrest you for many reasons or no reason at all. I found myself a victim once, and spent at least three days in jail. I also dedicate this piece to my mother, who was a prisoner of the liberation war for three months in 1979.
                                                                                                                                 Clyde Bango

 In his “Under the Tree,” show, Clyde placed Dr. Wangari Maathai’s words next to her photo on the gallery wall at the Museum of African Art and Culture:

"It's the little things citizens do. That's what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees." ~Wangari Maathi
..and his own words: Rest Well, Under The Tree

 On his website http://www.clydebango.com/  this young artist tells us what he is planting with his art:

My hope is to make art that inspires new ideas and invokes deeper thoughts out of simple subjects like figures, trees and houses.
 I wish to show my work and life to make you laugh and smile always, but only if you're willing to think and cry sometimes.

It is time to look past our ever-refreshed media view of Africa, to see Africans and the people that have built their inner houses of stones, surviving, thriving and creating out of their dreams and their culture with a trajectory toward the future they can craft with their own hands and heads...to the true benefit of  the people of Africa and the world.   As noted by Artlife Magazine, a publication of  the National Gallery of Zimbabwe www.nationalgallery.co.zw/, "Contemporary African artists are taking us on journeys through time, space, culture and the natural environment, as old as time, as new as we care to make it".

References:  Metropolitan Museum of Art,  Artlife Magazine, Zimbabwean Art Journal, Bates College Newspaper,Museum of African Art and Culture, Interviews with Clyde Bango, AllAfrica News, The Zimbabwean,BBC News,New York Times


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