Zimbabwe: Banned playwright and visual artist isolated

Playwright Cont Mhlanga and artist Owen Maseko have been harassed, arrested and detained for criticising the government – but while they have been made personae non gratae in Zimbabwe’s art circles, they have not stopped doing what they love.

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The two artists were portrayed by Inter Press Service, reporting from Bulawayo on 27 December 2013.

“We are dealing with people who only understand their political positions and not the laws, especially under our new Constitution.”
Playwright Cont Mhlanga whose play ‘Members’ was banned from theatre stages in Zimbabwe in 1985

Mhlanga describes his work as one story of governance and transparency, and his plays offer a social commentary on politics, corruption, human rights abuses, dictatorship and dispossession. A number have been banned from the stage, earning him a reputation for not shying away from controversy.

Owen Maseko’s art is provocative and political. A 2012 painting of a bespectacled man emerging from a television set with long outstretched arms is a depiction of the bad news of the killings in Matabeleland and Midlands by government forces in 1983, which President Robert Mugabe has described as a “moment of madness”.

Maseko has suffered personally and professionally since his Gukurahundi Exhibition held at the National Gallery in Bulawayo in 2009 was shut down by the police after it premiered. Today the section of the gallery housing the exhibition is a crime scene despite the Constitutional Court ruling that Maseko’s arrest was unconstitutional.

“The freedom to express oneself does not come free because I have paid for it with my work,” Maseko told IPS at his home studio in Bulawayo. “While I have been able to do international exhibitions, I have not been able to function in Zimbabwe as no one wants to work with me or be associated with me.”


Inter Press Service – 27 December 2013:
Free Expression Still a Mirage for Zimbabwean Artists

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