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Mzikayise Nyathi at work: A hopeless heritage; an African tale

Heritage is essentially that which may be inherited; it would seem corruption and abuse of power is a great part of our inheritance. We have long been inheriting corrupt governments and ways of governing.

Africa is one of the most impoverished continents and South Africa the most economically unequal country in the world yet we are the continent with the most raw resources.

American documentary film director Alex Gibney says, “I think of my films as not necessarily political but more moral. Between my father, my stepfather, and my mother – they all felt pretty passionately about the importance of standing up and doing the right thing, and none of them were suck-ups. What motivates me is usually abuse of power.”

And Australian author Jane Harper says, “His own naivety taunted him like a flicker of madness.”

These two quotes are very important when speaking about South African based Zimbabwean artist, Bukhosi Mzikayise Nyathi.

Born in a country with a tumultuous past under the presidency of a freedom fighter who would later reveal himself a self-interested dictator, it is no coincidence then that the recurring theme in Mzikayise’s work is the “abuse of power.”

Like Gibney, Nyathi was born in a family that instilled in him strong morals which would become the source of the “naivety” that informs his art.

To use one’s gifts as a voice of protest and to actually believe things will change can drive any man insane.

One writer says, “hope is for those who cannot see the truth”, but we live in a continent where it is impossible not to see the truth yet we remain hopeful.

Nyathi has made it his journey to use his work to conscientize and make attempts at uprooting the corruption DNA.

He identifies strongly with children and the continent of Africa. Love is the biggest motivator of his work.

Some of the lyrics to Don McLean’s posthumous ode to Vincent Van Gogh:
“Now I understand, what you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen now
For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left inside
On that starry, starry night
You took your life as lovers often do
But I could have told you, Vincent
This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you”

I worry that our heritage of greed is a breeding ground for the frustrated artist, constantly under the pressure to create work that sells when all he really wants is to make work that speaks.

Happy Heritage Month to all.

ALSO READ: Kutlwano Moagi opens Spontaneous Inventions at Kolektivelab

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