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The Great Bantu Migration

The project is a series of 60 paintings interpreting the migration of over 1,5 million Zimbabweans from their country to South Africa. The background to the concept of the Great Bantu Migration project is a result of the humanitarian crisis that took place at the Beitbridge border post between Zimbabwe and South Africa between December 2020 and January 2021. Every year towards the festive holidays, a large number of Zimbabwean immigrants living and working in South Africa return back to their home communities. This leads to increased activity at both countries' points of entry during this period. Due to the coronavirus, congestion and chaos took place at the Beitbridge border post on account of Covid-19 tests that were being performed on every person. As a result of the delays, there was congestion of vehicles, trucks, and buses, which resulted in people having to wait for over 7 days to cross the border and according to reports, the death of 15 people.

It is with this tragic event that the artist, himself a Zimbabwean, was motivated to interpret what is considered the great migration of Zimbabweans to South Africa in 60 narrative oil on canvas paintings. The project concept is also inspired by Jacob Lawrence's series of The Migration of the Negro, whose sixty panels represented the great migration of African Americans from the South to the industrial cities of the North during World War 1. There are clear parallels to the story of the movement of African Americans from the south to the north to that of Zimbabweans moving from the north of the southern African region to the south.

In a similar manner, but in different context and circumstances, the project will represent in a series of pictures and text, not only the story of the Zimbabwean hopes, opportunities, struggles, and challenges but also the economic, social, and political impact that resulted as a result of the movement.

The project will group the artworks in sections within the series, each with the objective of highlighting the following: a) causes of the migration b) stimulation of the migration c) spread of the migration d) effects of migration on Zimbabwe e) effects of migration on South Africa f) effects of migration on the psychology of Zimbabwean migrants With each section, other themes to be further explored will include xenophobia, racial discrimination, crime, housing conditions, employment, and educational opportunities. The target audience for the project is firstly Zimbabwean citizens and Zimbabwean migrants themselves, highlighting to them how their migration has impacted the region. Another target audience is South African citizens, who have both welcomed and at times resisted foreigners in their communities, thereby encouraging them to understand the circumstances that foreigners face and their reasons for migrating. It is hoped that this project will encourage community unity regardless of nationality and work together for better economic and social conditions in the future. This forms the relevance of the project. It is envisioned that the project can encourage more engaged discourse on the issue of migration not only in Southern Africa but in other parts of the world such as Venezuela, Mexico, West Africa, and Asia. It is the expectation of the artists and their partners that this project will make a difference by visualizing the phenomenon of migration and how it impacts communities and nations.

The project shall be managed by the artists and partner Joachim Melchers, Director of ARTCO Gallery Berlin. The cooperation between ARTCO and Richard Mudariki has been established over 6 years ago. A meeting was conducted on 8 April 2021 to discuss the project and assign roles. The role of the artist, Richard, will be research and production of artworks while the role of ARTCO Berlin (Joachim Melchers) shall be the coordination of the project including facilitating the transportation of work between venues, the display and exhibition of the artworks, the publication of a book and artistic conversation on teleconferencing sites such as Zoom / Microsoft Teams.
ARTCO Gallery, Berlin, Germany

3 February 2022

Kufa Makwavarara + Richard Mudariki | OBSERVER & COMMENTATOR | ARTCO Galerie Berlin | 21.01.-05.03.2022 | ART@Berlin