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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

CHIPUZA AT THE ART AND CULTURE CORNER

Just art to explore the theme of voiceless foreigners

By Staff Writer IMAN MANI

WHEN the young and up-coming Dar es Salaam-based New Media artist, Rehema Chachage, came back from her studies in South Africa, last year, she was feeling utterly confused. Having spent the last four years in the ‘Rainbow Nation’ reading and learning about the various aspect of the visual arts in its’ entire scope, had left her not knowing where to start from or in which direction to go, now that she had returned home to the ‘Haven of Peace’.

However, when the ‘Star’ caught up with her during the week, she insisted things have since changed for the better. Now she knows where she is going; having discovered from where it was she had to start. Within the few months of her being back in Tanzania, since her graduation last year from Michaelis School of Fine Art of the University of Cape Town, she found new challenges for her to overcome, right here in ‘Bongoland’.

To her it’s more than just having obtained a Bachelors of Arts degree in Fine Art. She is now ready to explore the wide unknown. The on-going Chipuza exhibition, at the Goethe Institut, within the City Centre has played an important role in this transition. It started on the eighth of this month, to coincide with the International Women’s Day and will be coming to a close this coming Wednesday.

The most prominent theme that Chachage tries to explore in her works is that of ‘alienation’. This comes from being a stranger, outsider, the other person, an alien; who are often voiceless people that mingle within a population. Chipuza has been inspired by the social alienation she experienced in the four years she spent as a 'cultural foreigner’ – not being a South African - black female student, in a predominantly white middle class oriented institution.

A visitor to the exhibition would see that it consists of three black and white video instillations and four digital photographs. The actual word ‘Chipuza’ is Swahili for ‘Germinate’ in English and takes on the task of exploring the theme of ‘voice’ and ‘rootedness’. It builds on a larger body of work that Rehema had entitled ‘Haba na Haba’ and produced for her graduate exhibition at Michaelis last December in Cape Town.

This consisted of a series of transistor radios encoded with audio and visual data that had been particularly chosen and intentionally interfered with so as to make it somewhat inaccessible to viewers. Further, ‘Haba na Haba’ was concerned with the artist’s own struggle to find her ‘own’ voice; something she allies to the transistor radio, a mode of communication prominent in her childhood and in which voice is transmitted independent of physical identity.

During the conversation with the ‘Star’ Rehema said that she has been interested in the ‘New Media’, which is also called ‘Mixed Media’, for quite some time. The branch within this called video and photography has been of special interest to her. Therefore, when she was studying for her Arts degree she included this topic in her dissertation. She had seen examples of the art form in books and at a number of exhibitions in South Africa.

With reference to the reaction she got in Cape Town for her ‘Haba na Haba’ exhibition she says, “It was a good response in South Africa and a lot of people told me they understood and were touched by it. I had questions from people who were very interested in the artworks. Some of them wanted to put me in other exhibitions and yet others wanted to buy my work but then changed their mind because they didn’t want to invest in an undergraduate’s works.”

There were some similarities to this observed here at this Chipuza exhibition in Dar es Salaam. Quite a number of people were present and congratulated her for her achievement.

“But not a lot of them wanted to engage in a talk about the works with me,” she said. “The director of Alliance Francaise (Didier Martin) was an exception, for he also told me what he did like about them, instead of just saying congratulations,” she added.

This pleased Rehema very much because according to her, “He obviously must have looked beyond the aesthetics and presentations and did get engaged in the works, which he had looked at for a long enough time.”

Although the exhibition will not be closing until this coming Wednesday, Rehema has already started preparing for her next exhibition of completely new works this May. She will be presenting something in collaboration with an Ethiopian artist at the Alliance Francaise premises in Dar es Salaam. He had seen the current exhibition at the Goethe Institut and being greatly impressed made inquiries until he got hold of her.

A lady visitor to the exhibition told the ‘Star’ she was encouraged to check it out by her friends, who in turn were captivated by its’ exclusive approach. They saw it as being very different from what is usually put on in Dar es Salaam.

“It’s nice to see the different shades of light used as a medium together in an installation. It makes me think,” the visitor said. Dar es Salaam-based New Media artist, Rehema Chachage (sitting on the right) can easily be mistaken as part of her on-going Chipuza exhibition at the Goethe-Institut in the city

Source: Star Magazine (Sunday News, 28 March 2010)

1 comments:

Anonymous April 12, 2010 at 11:14 PM  

Rehema from what I have read, I am impressed, and I cant wait to know more about this new buzz or should I say wave in the art scene in Bongo. Hongera sana, I am touched by your uniqueness in your art and mind provoking. Hongera 'nyota' until then keep on keepin on until next time we talk.....love u

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