Raphael Chikukwa | Zimbabwe

“When words fail, art speaks”


Raphael Chikukwa was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, where he currently lives and works.

He studied curating contemporary design at Kingston University (London, UK). 

Chikukwa is Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (Harare, Zimbabwe), a position he has held since 2010. He is the founding Curator of the Zimbabwe Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale, 2011; the other editions of the Zimbabwe Pavilion from 2013, 2015, 2017, and the past 2019 Zimbabwe Pavilion at the 58th La Biennale di Venezia 2019. 

Chikukwa was a panel member for the Art Basel Hong Kong 2019 and also a jury member for the Dakar Biennale 2018 in Senegal. He has also contributed in a number of Publications that includes Mowonero: Insights in Zimbabwean Contemporary Art, Zimbabwe Pavilion Catalogues (Seeing Ourselves 2011, Dudziro 2013, Pixels of Ubuntu/Unhu 2015, Deconstructing Boundaries 2017 and Soko Risina Musoro – A Tale Without. Head 2019) Kaboo Ka Muwala: Migration and Mobility Exhibition 2016 etc. His qualifications and international experience earned this position at the national institution, which he hopes to change the visual arts landscape of Zimbabwe. Chikukwa was awarded the 2006 -2007 Chevening Scholar and now holds an MA Curating Contemporary Design from Kingston University London.

The 2nd Johannesburg Biennale in 1997 provided an impetus to Raphael’s curatorial career after working as a volunteer guide for the Biennale. He later moved to his home country Zimbabwe as a process of relocation to his motherland. Chikukwa is a founding staff member of the PUMA funded Creative Africa Network as an editor and advisor of the project from 2008 – 2009. Recently he was among seven Curators from Africa attending the Tate Modern Symposium “Curating Africa where he presented a paper on his curatorial practice. In 2008, Chikukwa represented Africa at the 2008 Art Basel Miami

Conversations in the United States of America. The American Centre Foundation also awarded Raphael a curatorial research grant in 2006 – 2007 and he travelled in West Africa for his curatorial research.


TAMARY KUDITA, Roots II, Photograph, cm 84 x 119


Curatorial Statement
Visualizing the Ways of Seeing, Ways of Doing and Ways of Being By Raphael Chikukwa

Upon being asked by the Commissioner General of the Zimbabwe Pavilion, Ambassador Mary Mubi, to think about what the National Gallery of Zimbabwe could contribute to the Expo Dubai, I conceptualized MaDzimbahwe; a group exhibition traversing generations, gender and media, to encapsulate Zimbabwe’s artistic offering at this prestigious platform, Expo Dubai 2020. 

This exhibition comes at a time when the whole world continues to struggle amid COVID-19 lockdowns, with the vaccination drive continuing across the globe. MaDzimbahwe speaks to the embodiment of principles of creativity, social consciousness and critical engagement that have manifested in these trying times.

Led by one of the surviving First Generation of Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture artists, Josiah Manzi, this group of artists brings diverse perspectives for Expo Dubai and its global audience and its community to enjoy. Most of these works were created in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as such, these works are rife with different viewpoints. Danisile Ncube’s Masks are timeless for they are a captive of the zeitgeist while Prudence Chimutuwah’s work and its manipulation and texture of currency expresses the economic impact of the pandemic.

Admire Kamudzengerere’s portraits question contemporaneity in as much as the scars of COVID-19 will linger forever in our collective memory. The other three artists; Tusichile Kasito, Nothando Chiwanga and Tamary Kudita, who commonly produce photographic works, interrogate the identity issues that have also been challenges thrust by COVID-19.  Kudita’s work engages with issues of invisibility, re-contextualization, appropriation and subversion to preconceived ideas of black personhood. The unchosen histories remain an inspiration to Kudita’s work for she feels these unchosen histories have shaped our contemporary state. From her statement I feel, “We have remained passengers in our own ship for too long and its time we own our own narratives”. This is why MaDzimbahwe exhibition is important and especially at the Expo Dubai. Understood or not understood, this exhibition brings fresh minds to yet another unknown terrain but art will always bring people together. 

While Doris Kampira’s paintings interrogate our everyday realities that are not only Zimbabwean but global, through the feminine experience. Isaac Choloka sculptures brings a new thinking from a new generation of sculptors while the veteran Josiah Manzi’s touch remain powerful and he continues to surprise his viewers in this new body of work. Desert Lizard and Yao Chief and Yao Kings is a reflection of Manzi’s origins.

The challenge to shift the focus away from this group of artists’ profiles towards their art is not easier than done. Without being allergic to history, art does not exist in a vacuum but even more so because these artists and their lives one way or the other informs much of their works of art and impacts on their profiles. The intersection between their practice is what brings this group of artists together for this historic exhibition for expo Dubai. 

Coming from different generations, these artists bring together different perspectives and different art forms, from sculpture, photography and paintings. Their works enable the viewer to capture different realities and identity issues.

Visualizing the ways of seeing, ways of doing and ways of being is a platform for this group of artists at this particular moment. As Visual DJs we play certain songs at a certain time and these artists are here to challenge today’s realities and perceptions.  

Our ways of seeing, ways of doing and ways of being have been challenges and we now have new ways of being and doing. Here the artists serve as archivists of both public and private memories through their different mediums that are in this exhibition. The convergence of different content, themes and techniques from this group of artists is very powerful in different ways. It is now down to the viewers of this to explore MaDzimbahwe exhibition and add their voice or their viewpoint to the discourse therein. 

This exhibition speaks to multiple moments of revelation as much as it does to the larger quest for fulfillment and wholeness for being African.

Furthermore, this concept resonates at the level of everyday life through the eyes of this group of artists. Their approach to their works brings something different to Dubai and to those that will have an opportunity to see this show.  

It is the first time for most of these artists to show in Dubai and show at AKKA Project Gallery too. As the Executive Director and Curator of this exhibition, I would also like to say, I am very grateful to the participating artists. There is no exhibition without artists for the artists give birth to these artworks that are here in this exhibition. 

To the Commissioner General Ambassador Mary Mubi and her team, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe is grateful for this opportunity and partnership and to offer Zimbabwean Contemporary artists such a great opportunity shows how serious and committed the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe is in promoting artists.

As much as Expos are exclusively focused on mainstream Economic drivers such as Mining, Agriculture, Industry and Commerce, Zimbabwe’s focus on its contemporary artists, brings visibility to the sector. To the National Gallery of Zimbabwe team across Zimbabwe, allow me to thank you all for the teamwork that makes an exhibition of this nature possible. The spirit of Ubuntu/Unhu must continue to prevail, “For you are because we are”. Vakuru Vakati, “Munhu Munhu, NaVanhu”, Umunthu NguMuntu NgaBhanthu”.