Rare exhibition opens in UK  

Jeffrey Muvundusi

A rare collection of rediscovered early works by young Zimbabwean painters is being exhibited in the United Kingdom for the first time in almost 70 years.

Dubbed “The Stars are Bright: Zimbabwe through the eyes of its young painters from Cyrene (1940-1947)”, the exhibition opened at The Theatre Courtyard Green Rooms in Shoreditch, London on Wednesday. It will end in September.
According to exhibition curators Georgia Ward, Chiedza Mhondoro and Jessica Ihejatoh — this is a collection of extraordinary paintings and drawings created by more than 40 young Zimbabwean artists over a seven-year period.
It captures their unique perspectives on the changing world around them.
The exhibition includes works by Samuel Songo, Kingsley Sambo, Timothy Dhlodhlo and several others who went on to become the precursors to Zimbabwean modern art.
Having been preserved in the basement of the former St Michael and All Angels’ Church, a six-minute walk from where they will now be displayed, the works have not been publicly exhibited together since the 1950s.
“The Stars are Bright comes at a critical time to share the story of African artists and their work. It sheds much-deserved light on these young artists and this vital chapter of Zimbabwe’s art history,” said Ward.
After the exhibition, the artworks will tour Zimbabwe.
Selected from a more substantial collection, the 25 large paintings and more than 50 smaller works were created while the artists were students aged 10 to 20 at Cyrene, a boys’ mission school founded in 1940 near Bulawayo in colonial Zimbabwe (then known as Southern Rhodesia) by Edward ‘Ned’ Paterson, a Scottish clergyman.
Paterson, who was passionate about the visual arts, had the pupils take part in weekly art classes, making it one of the first African schools to incorporate art into the curriculum.


Inspired by the varied surrounding landscape, the young men produced a unique and vast body of artwork out of their life and culture.
This exhibition highlights the richness and variety of techniques, styles and themes, while offering an insight into key moments of Zimbabwe’s life and culture during this colonial phase.
With almost two weeks after the lockdown on galleries was lifted in London, The Stars are Bright joins the celebration of life returning to the city that was hugely affected by the pandemic.
According to the curators, various measures have been implemented to safeguard the health and safety of visitors.
 “When we began organising The Stars are Bright, which takes its title from a work in the exhibition by Musa Nyahwa dated 1945, we could never have imagined just how much the world would change around us. It is a critical time to share the work of black artists past and present.
“This exhibition is an exploration of life, the natural world, spirituality and change, all guided by Zimbabwe’s bright young stars,” said Ward.
The Stars are Bright is produced by Idili Live and presented by The Belvedere Trust.

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