The dichotomy of the diaspora experience and socio-political displacement is a powerful theme in Zimbabwean-born artist Tega Tafadzwa’s poignant and deeply arresting portraits. Tafadzwa descends from a long line of artists and thanks to a series of successful shows in recent years in South Africa, Miami and Switzerland, his vibrant pieces have captured the imagination of collectors across the African continent and further afield.
Under Tafadzwa’s direction, his subjects - inspired by his fellow ex-pat Zimbabweans and based somewhat on his own experiences as an immigrant, take center stage, adopting somewhat theatrical poses –emphasising a sense of grandiosity despite the challenges of being strangers in their unfamiliar surroundings. His portraits convey the admiration he has for his fellow displaced countrymen and women who are faced with conflicting emotions – the joy of new possibilities and the longing for what has been left behind. His canvasses and indeed his subjects are flamboyantly dressed in a riot of colour, demanding attention and garnering empathy for their bravado, given their challenges.
Each portrait’s background pays homage to Tafadzwa’s deep sense of self –as a Zimbabwean and a son of African soil. A wallpaper of Zumbani (the tea leaf from the fever tree) is a graphic curtain that reflects his connection to the traditional plant, long used in his home country as a medicinal aid for daily ills. This reference is a powerful showcase of how Tafadzwa straddles both his future and his past in each portrait – and regards it as a profound talisman for the unknown journey ahead.