The National Art Gallery Of Zimbabwe was opened on 16 of July 1957. It is situated in the CBD of Harare with its back surrounded by Harare park, Monomotapa Hotel to its right and a busy Juluis Nyerere Way in front. As one walks towards the gallery you are greeted by a historic, clean, modern looking double story building. Its outlook is amazing with the 1970s architectural look topped off with a flat roof, oh what splendor. To the left and right of the main entrance there are several huge sculptures in various mediums, the prominent been stone.On the top floor the front face of the gallery is covered by huge glass windows except on the right where there is a beautiful large colourful abstract mosaic infact it is huge. Two to three meters below the mosaic is a water fountain with a huge pool of water, one can sit on the ledge with their back facing the pool of water and just watch everyday people walk on and drive by.
The entrance is made up of glass doors and as you enter the well lit up (from all the natural light freely beaming through) foyer on the right there is a notice board and on your left you are greeted by the concierge. At this point you are kindly assisted and directed to where you want to go. In the foyer there is huge reed woven artifact hanging on the ceiling and below it your eyes are drawn to huge windows which lead you to gallery shop which is surrounded by a sea of Shona stone sculptures ( we won’t be heading there now) The Zimbabwe National Art Gallery is made up of four galleries in one. After parting with $1 I head to the right where the main gallery is situated, it is called the Courtauld Gallery. This gallery is huge and is open plan and one can see the other galleries that are one floor up from any point of the ground floor gallery. This gallery is airy and spacious and one walks on a wooden tiled floor and is surrounded by white walls adorned with creative pieces of art, some parts of the floor have installations and a couple of sculptures. Above the gallery are translucent roof sheets which let in the much needed light, this establishment is well lit by natural light. At the time of writing this article on exhibition in three of the four galleries was The Zimbabwe Annual Exhibition under this years theme Mharidzo (Sermon)
As one looks around this open plan to the left of the Courtauld gallery is a ramp laid with rubber so that no one slips, this ramp zig zags its way to the top floor. I noticed there are many ramps all over the establishment which makes it easy for those on wheel chairs or prosthetic limbs to access all corners. As the ramp ends you enter the gorgeous South gallery which one side has glass from the floor to roof allowing one to have view of Harare from the first floor. Its 3 large white walls had work of art from the Mharidzo Exhibition. When walking down going towards the East Gallery there is a wall waist high and one can have a birds eye view of the ground floor art pieces in Courtauld gallery. The East gallery has three white walls and a view of the ground floor. The floor of the East gallery had a huge mixed media sculpture mainly made of wire and the wall had large colourful canvas paintings. At the end of the gallery is a glass door that leads to the MMCZ gallery (Minerals Marketing Company Of Zimbabwe). It is a long well lit spacious gallery, unfortunately during the writing of this article it was closed as they where taking down European Union Climate Change Exhibition which had just ended.
Downstairs facing the foyer is the Art Life Gallery Gift Shop and next to it is the coffee shop. The shop is well stocked with goodies, especially those looking for authentic Zimbabwean gifts. These range from hand made earings, cultural books, textile, crafts, paintings just mention a few, there is a wide choice to choose from. The shop has a courtyard filled with a variety of sculptures. Next to the shop is the gallery coffee shop which had just been beautifully and artistically renovated, it is such a tranquil environment surrounded by art. You have about a dozen or so vinyl records dangling from the ceiling and on one wall you have a mural stunningly filled with colour. The tables and chairs are made of recycled wood which is beautifully painted, these face the large glass that looks out into the park filled with well manicured green grass with stone sculptures laid here and there. So after a tour of the National Art Gallery Of Zimbabwe go downstairs buy gifts have a drink, coffee or snack while relaxing in the airy atmosphere and there is wiifii available
Doreen Sibanda is the galleries current Executive Director and Raphael Chikukwa is the Chief Curator. The gallery has a well stocked library that is opened to the public for a fee . It also has The National Gallery School Of Visual Arts & Design which offers a well designed curriculum to students who want to venture in the world of creativity. The gallery offers educational tours for schools and has holiday art lessons for kids. Every month or so it hold what it calls Harare Conversations where prominent arts sit down and talk to members of the public.
The exhibitions that will be on show this year are as follows
1.Kabbo Ka Muwala – The Girls Basket (Migration and Mobility in Contemporary art in Southern & Eastern Africa)
Zimbabwe National Gallery Of Zimbabwe Harare February 4 – April 4 2016
Uganda Makerere Art Gallery Kampala April 14 – June 12 2016
Germany Stadtische Galarie Bremen September 24 – December 11 2016
The exhibition is an itinerant project taking place in Zimbabwe, Uganda and Germany. The work is by local and international artist
2.Pixels Of Ubuntu April 26 – June 26
This is the exhibition that was at the Zimbabwe pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale
3.Zig Zag Bounderies April 28 – June 30 2016
It comprises local and international artists
4. Tavatose Sisonke April 30 – June 30 2016
The is an exhibition by school going children
5. Matarenda 1 July -1 August 2016
This is an open call exhibition for young and up coming artists.
6. Hidden Memories 15 August – 15 September
An exhibition looking at people and history
7. A solo exhibition by Kudzanai Chiurai 14 October – 18 November 2016
8. Zimbabwe Annual Exhibition December 9 – 2017
Nhaka meaning inheritance is an open call exhibition
Zimbabwe was the first and consistent African country to have a pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
I hope you have enjoyed the walk through the gallery and next time you are in Zimbabwe pop in and absorb some creativity. Opening times are 8am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and closed on Sunday and public holidays.