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Gerald Machona

Artist 85 Gerald Machona Vabvakure (people far away) Afrofuturism

Gerald Machona is a Zimbabwe-born visual and performance artist. He works in sculpture, performance, new media, photography and film.

A notable aspect of his work is his innovative use of currency—particularly decommissioned Zimbabwean dollars—through which he explores migrant and diaspora narratives as well as the creative limits of visual art production.

Following the political and economic collapse of Zimbabwe in the late nineties, thousands of Zimbabweans migrated into neighbouring countries. South Africa hosts the largest number of Zimbabwean migrants in this diaspora.

In 2008 and 2015 waves of xenophobic violence spread through South Africa, images of which were seen throughout the world.

Many of the victims of this violence were Zimbabweans. People were targeted through a process of profiling which assumed that authentic South Africans are lighter in complexion or fluent in an indigenous language.

This resulted in a number of South African casualties. Such beliefs have complicated the idea of what constitutes ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ in South African society, pitting ‘native’ against ‘alien’ and perpetuating an exclusive sense of belonging that is reminiscent of apartheid doctrine.

There is a growing need in the post-colony to deconstruct these notions of individual and collective identity, since ‘nations’, ‘nationalisms’ and ‘citizenry’ are no longer defined solely through indigeneity or autochthony.

In today’s focus ‘Vabvakure (people far away)’ Machona negotiates the condition of xenophobia within Africa through the cultural aesthetic of Afrofuturism.

Vabvakure is a Shona word used to describe a “foreigner” and within this Machona explores feelings of estrangement associated with the experience of “foreignness” while living in South Africa.

This series of works developed as a response to the what Machona calls “the Afrophobic nature” of the xenophobic violence experienced in South Africa in 2008, and attempts to playfully disrupt the negative misconceptions of African expatriates and immigrants living in the country.

Through the media of sculpture, film and photography, Machona binds magic realism with non-Western discourse in order to both examine contemporary predicaments on the continent and interrogate events of the past.

Machona asserts that forms of cultural mediation such as visual and performance art can offer insights into social trauma and potentially resist intolerance and violence associated with xenophobia.


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