Ilizwe/Nyika/Nation Collaboration was produced in 2019 by artists at a residency held at the National Gallery of Bulawayo.
This collaboration is multidisciplinary work investigating different values and ideologies attached to land, national identity, boundaries and belonging in Southern Africa and Zimbabwe and aimed to encourage collaboration between South African and Zimbabwean artists across artistic disciplines. Land is a sensitive issue in both South Africa and Zimbabwe with both countries’ colonial histories, struggles for independence and forced removals. Land ownership and land rights are still contentious issues in the neighboring states.
Land and gender are charged topics as both countries struggle with transformation and healing from of colonialism and aparthied. The collective (mainly comprised of female artists) developed the work through a series of workshopped processes that allowed them to collectively explore histories and narratives (personal and historical) around gender and land.
The group also chose to explore the historical narrative of Ndebele Queen Lozikeyi and the Ndebele people in connection to a historical site of Hillside Dam in Bulawayo. The site it said to be the location of King Lobengula’s favourite royal village to which he escaped to relax in the 19th Century and is now a National Monument. (Hillside Dam Conservancy)
Ilizwe is the Ndebele word for Nation and Nyika is the Shona word for Nation, both tribes are found in Zimbabwe The Ndebele’s in the Bulawayo region have strong historical ties to the Zulu nation of South Africa. South African History Online, says “subjects of the Zulu leader Mzilikazi, fled north from Natal after his defeat by Shaka in 1817…He is therefore credited as being the founder of the Ndebele in Zimbabwe.”
Queen Lozikeyi was a firm, strong-willed, principled, and greatly respected woman. What we have here is a remarkable woman who readily stepped in at a time of crisis to be the interim leader or ‘King’ of the Ndebele people. Yet her story remains little known. In Zimbabwe, as with most countries, memorialisation has leaned towards being patriarchal, as evidenced by the naming of significant structures, buildings and roads. There remains an opportunity to reimagine what and who is memorialised and just what this could mean for the psyche of young girls looking for themselves or a woman role model in their history.”
News headlines around gender-based violence were brought into sharp focus at the time of the residency when the work was produced with the #enoughisenough protests, while at the same time xenophobic attack flared up in South Africa and the ex-president of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe passed away ushering in a new political era.
The approach of democratic collaboration made it possible to explore these events in relation to our topic in a sensitive manner as a group over the residency period.
The collaborators of Ilizwe/Nyika/Nation are currently in the process of finalising the work to be exhibited opening on 27 March 2020 at the National Gallery of Bulawayo.
Collaborating Artists include: Cliford Zulu, Deborah Weber, Elgin Rust, Jolene Cartmill, Lady Shawe, Nomvuyiso Mpofu, Shamilla Aasha, Zandile Masuku.