The artworks reflected Chinyama’s perspective, personal experiences and philosophies, set against the backdrop of the political strife, economic meltdown, mis-governance and social injustice which have plagued Zimbabwe for decades.
The subject matter is bold and provocative, giving the artist a newfound role as the voice of the people.
“My initial intention was to interrogate and interpret this Zimbabwean story from a different perspective – that of an ordinary citizen… the ordinary person has not had a chance to tell the story of the struggles and challenges we face every day, just to live another day in current Zimbabwe,” Chinyama says.
“Yes, we all know there is no revolution that is silent in this world we live in. We know in most revolutions people have to take up arms and confront whatever system stands in their way…
“But get me right here, Footprints of a Silent Revolution is about the tracing, interrogating and unpacking the numerous personal challenges Zimbabweans still face due to the current state of affairs in our nation…
“In conversations with different people, they ask me: ‘What is it with you Zimbabwean people? We read and hear of so many challenges you face, for so many years, and yet you remain quiet, passive, cowed down and peaceful.’
“Critically, I realised that, in fact every one of us, as Zimbabweans, have been fighting silent revolutions in each given time.
“In every one of our challenges, you would see every one of us had to compromise heavily on our being as a people, our integrity, and find a way to make the next day. It’s amazing.”
Chinyama said that looking at the past, one wonders how they made it, given the severity of the challenges people faced. This inspired him to tell the story of his countrymen from an ordinary person’s point of view; from an “apolitical” perspective.
Like most young people in Zimbabwe, he has been frustrated by the lack of opportunities, due to poor government policies.
The aspirations of many visionary youths have been dented or they have left.
Chinyama feels alienated by the government and the fact that there is no unified vision among the people, as to how they want to see their country move forward.
Chinyama’s debut solo exhibition in 2004, Visual Poetry, hosted by the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, explored the question of land, which was a burning issue at the time.
Those who are familiar with Chinyama’s work would have noticed the recent shift to new themes, indicating personal growth and an urge to contribute to socio-economic reform in his country.
In his earlier work he painted “pretty” images that would just beautify homes.
“But, with each and every moment I feel a deep sense to do work that represents the wholeness of our being as society and people. Be able to tell and record the political, socio-economic, spiritual transformations we’re going through now as a nation,” he says.
Footprints of a Silent Revolution isn’t about selling, like some of his previous shows, but about highlighting the dilemma and struggles every Zimbabwean faces today – such as joblessness, poverty, lack of basic rights, basic education and services, due to a failing economy and governance system.
The show was on at Lite-Haus Galery, in Nuekolln, Berlin, earlier this month and the themes resonated with many German art lovers, who wanted to know the ordinary Zimbabwean story.
Chinyama says it was critical to take the exhibition outside Zimbabwe.
Many galleries in the country had closed, leaving few spaces left to show art works.
It was also an opportunity for his story to be heard by a bigger audience. In addition, works like these would have been deemed provocative, and as such would not have been accepted by many galleries in the country.