Zimbabwean Artist Kudzanai Chiurai Idea Of A Library
Kudzanai, a Zimbabwean artist, is a sensation. His work is among the most innovative and challenging in contemporary African art. His work can found in some of the most prestigious galleries and collections around the globe, including large-scale photos of imaginary African dictators and experimental films, protest posters, rich oil paintings, and minimal sculptures.
Chiurai is not a fan of gallery spaces and prefers to exhibit in streets, warehouses or urban areas. The Library of Things We Forgot to Remember is his latest project. It is located in 44 Stanley in Johannesburg. The project is based on his collection practice, which focuses on the preservation of archives and the memorialisation of social and cultural history from south Africa. He has turned his personal archive and library into a public art project.
This idea is based on Chiurai’s obsession with history and accumulation of artefacts like books, pamphlets and zines, newspapers and vinyl records, posters, audio recordings, and other ephemera. These materials explore the relationship between cultural productions and social movements.
Non-Traditional Approach Zimbabwean To Archive
This work is a markedly non-traditional approach to archive. Interaction is key to selection and acquisition. It is manage as a type of commons, where everyone can benefit from the artist’s collection and those donate by others. While most libraries and archives emphasize the preservation of material, Chiurai’s library encourages physical engagement and active use to preserve their relevance.
This library is a reflection of Chiurai’s artistic style, which uses mixed media to address cultural, political, and social issues. It recalls his 2011 exhibition State of the Nation, in which he explored conflict through the construction of an African utopia. This allowed him to combine forms and media, juxtapose political ideologies, and evoke historical figures, such as a speech by Patrice Lumumba, the slain Congolese independence leader, delivered by Zaki Ibrahim, alongside a performance from Thandiswa Mawai, contemporary musician.
Chiurai’s work focuses on new ways to activate and share, present, reinvent, and present the archives. This is what he did with the library, his latest project.
The Zimbabwean Library
The Library of Things We Forgot to Remember, which was first created in 2017, had no permanent home. It was often incorporat into artist’s exhibitions. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the idea of a mobile library. It restricted movement and made it difficult to hold live events. The library is not about gathering materials but people. It is meant to a place for people to meet.
Chiurai invites other people to help him curate the archive and re-arrange it so that regular public viewing can done in a rent location. The library is, according to him.
It is a kind of liberated space. It works independently. I can find a new librarian each time… and different people view cataloguing differently. It can be view visually or aurally by some people. Different librarians bring me different information.
The artist’s vast collection of vinyl records, including those from Zimbabwean Chimurenga as well as South African anti-apartheid struggles music, is include in the library. You will also find recordings of speeches from historical political figures like Ian Smith, Kwame Seko, Mobutu Seleko, Dr Martin Luther King, and even a dramatic reenactment the trial of Bobby Seale, co-founder of Black Panther Party.
It has grown steadily. It received digital recordings from Freedom Archives, a US-based educational project. These radio interviews were with political figures and women who participated in liberation movements in Zimbabwe. Individuals and institutions may also donate other materials.
Chiurai takes great care to preserve these traces of struggle. Some of these posters and historical documents are now framed and hung up on the white walls. These materials were once used to document life in Black Africa and Black America as it occurred. They are now artifacts that preserve frozen moments of history. His library was designed to be a place for contemplation, reflection and meditation. A large green couch is available and there are several listening stations.
Remembering Is The Art Of Remembering
The Library of Things We Forgot To Remember is part of an effort expand ideas about what a library could be and decolonize it. It’s an extension of the new ways people use the “library” as a place to inquire and have conversations with the past.
The most fascinating thing about Chiurai’s library, is the fact that it isn’t static. It is rearranged in the hands of a guest Librarian and has traveled from Harare to Cape Town, Kalmar and Sodertalje. The political writing platform Chimurenga, in Harare, the writer and DJ El Corazone, in Cape Town, as well as film director and deejay Sifiso Khanyile, were previous librarians.
Chiurai’s goal is to develop a new model of artistic creation and knowledge production that does not interfere with the preservation, display, and circulation of cultural objects. Who is entitled to value? Who decides what history is? What materials should be collected and how? What can done to expand access to new audiences?
Visitors have a responsibility. Visitors are more than passive observers. They can also be interpreters, collaborators and readers. Because value is negotiate, the library becomes a place that provokes and allows multiple registers to be register. It is also about the reinvention and expansion of the library’s role as a place for contemplation in multiple ways. It remains a place for scholars, artists, curators, collectors and others to engage in research on southern African history.
Chiurai believes that remembering is a virtue. It is often a luxury or a privilege in Black communities. This new space, which is a combination gallery, community center library, archive and library, allows for remembering to be transform into a collective process of reimagining heritage and sharing it. It also demonstrates the generosity of Chiurai’s art practice and its commitment to care and community.