Spirituality is what fuels the work of Zimbabwean-born artist Ronald Muchatuta. The soft-spoken artist has been working in Cape Town since moving here in 2007, but it has not been easy.
Working independently as an artist and being from Zimbabwe have meant life often is a struggle, but recently the 31-year-old has been finding opportunities in various galleries around Cape Town. It is clear from speaking to Muchatuta that he reflects deeply and philosophically upon all the work he creates.
The past few years have been a bit luckier for him, but it has not always been so. He described a period where he went through a financially difficult patch and didn’t exhibit work for almost three years. “I went into some kind of hibernation and reflected on my career of being in the arts, making an income, trying something new, trying to mature and finding my voice and perfecting my technique.”
A big feat when you’re knocking on the door of galleries, but that was the inspiration for work that came later and one opportunity opened doors for others.
Last year, Muchatuta exhibited a powerful body of work titled The African Immigration Series, paintings that focused on acts of xenophobia or what he describes as “tribalism” that saw many African immigrants killed in attacks in April. The artworks play with the image of the carrier bag often referred to as the China bag, a common item for those crossing borders worldwide.
The series also makes reference to “necklacing”, the forcing a tyre around a victim’s arms and chest and setting it on fire, commonly used in mob attacks. Necklacing often replaces the heads of figures in Muchatuta’s work. The paintings boldly use the colours of the bag in red, white and blue and weave their lines and patterns into the human form. “I wanted to push creativity without being overtly gruesome, so I started playing with the lines of the bag.”