‘A crazy amount of talent’: contemporary art thrives in Harare | World news

In a makeshift studio, in an empty house on a ridge with a spectacular view of trees and blue sky, two artists are setting out brushes and paint. Half-finished canvases lean against walls. The bustle and noise of the city is far away.

Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude and Helen Teede are among a new wave of young artists in Zimbabwe who are attracting attention from collectors and curators worldwide. Both now work in a converted house surrounded by forest, a 40-minute drive from the capital, Harare.

Almost two years after Robert Mugabe, who died this month, was ousted in a military takeover, Zimbabwe is enjoying an unlikely boom in contemporary art, despite an economic crisis and unstable, sometimes violent, politics. The success is linked to its problems, the artists say.

“We want to talk about the time we are living in [in our paintings] … It comes out abstract and indirect but we have a collective responsibility to address what we know, what we see … There is source material in every day,” Teede, 31, told the Guardian.

Helen Teede

Helen Teede: ‘There’s always been a crazy amount of talent here … But all the best work is being sold overseas and that is a big loss.’ Photograph: Jason Burke/The Guardian

Valerie Kabov, who runs the First Floor Gallery in the centre of Harare and represents many emerging artists, said the post-Mugabe boom had been “unequivocal”.

“We’ve had a lot of international collectors coming and there is interest growing all the time … For a very small population of artists, the number of internationally successful artists that have emerged from Zimbabwe is really extraordinary.”

Kabov attributes the depth of talent in Zimbabwe to a tradition of education and intellectual inquiry, and “living in a really interesting matrix”.

“They cannot make work that is not important because there is nothing in their lives that is not important. There is none of this navel gazing. Here everything is real. The work comes from a really…

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