TROY MAKAZA - INSTINCT OF GREAT SURVIVORS
Troy Makaza is a young Zimbabwean artist, born in Harare in 1994. At barely 28 years old Makaza has been active internationally for a number of years.
He is a graduate of the National Gallery School of Visual Art and Design (NGSVAD), where he studied painting and sculpture and he has been mentored by senior artists such as Wycliffe Mundopa, Moffat Takadiwa and Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude.
During his student years Makaza set about developing his own visual language, where sculpture and painting, abstract and figurative, mix in a new and innovative idiom.
Through experimentation, Makaza came up with silicone infused with ink and paint, which he is able to mould, paint, weave and sculpt, thus allowing him to use a totally innovative medium, which leads to new shapes, structures and textures.
Troy Makaza’ surreal works, woven from painted silicone strings, inhabit the space on both side of painting and sculpture, creating a threadlike spider web.
His is a broader examination of the fluid and in-flux relationships in contemporary Zimbabwe that bound together powerful metaphors for social and intimate spaces, where traditional values and liberal attitudes are no longer assured.
"The medium is very intimately connected to my work on a number of levels. First of all, it combines a traditional art medium with a novel one. This is something that I am really conscious of doing as a contemporary Zimbabwean artist – bridging tradition with contemporary practice. Secondly, this medium allows me to move between sculpture and painting and to disrupt categories set up by people who are not us, so in a way it is me asserting my right as an artist to determine how I am seen and not allow myself or my content to be categorised. My subject matter is equally fluid moving between abstraction and figuration because neither category is in fact pure and the formality of these definitions don’t make sense to me."
- Troy Makaza
In his recent works, Troy has reflected on the cataclysmic events of November 2017 (and beyond), which saw the end of the 37-year rule of Robert Mugabe and the interplay between the military and people’s peaceful protest in bringing about the change. While abstract, his works pick up on and merge the colours of military fatigues and those of every day clothing as ruminations on what it meant and what it will mean for Zimbabwe going forward.
In all of Makaza's works we find a very strong connection to his land, to his origins, to what is happening today or to what happened in the past.
In the exhibition “Instinct of great survivors”, Meaning, responsibility and contentment is the work with a more figurative appeal, divided into three layers, three floors, three levels.
It is a series that examines a relationship and through a narrative element reveals the levels of society in which people can move.
Each level can describe a different situation: one is meaning, one is responsibility and the other is contentment.
On the first floor we find the atmosphere of abandoned table, four empty seats and a glass, a ghostly banquet with a dancer who moves almost in the void, casting her shadow on the floor.
On the second level, columns of a temple seem to appear against the backdrop of a bush.
Above, contentment, colors painted like military medals and flag of Zimbabwe. Everything remains tangled: knotted emotions, threads and strings that stack on top of each other to form a representation that oscillates between figurative and abstract.
“Dreams of a soft landing is inspired by the fairytale story of the princess and the pea...there are layered mattresses and blankets for comfort and each pattern is taken from the orders, decorations and medals given to most army troops who participated in the Rhodesian bush wars and other wars fought after 1980 which the ZNA (Zimbabwe National Army) participated in... these wars were portrayed as ventures which would benefit every Zimbabwean citizen but only a few profited from it”.
These works influenced by Hans Christian Andersen's tale of the Princess and the Pea give us the possibility of a double reading through their endless layers of false medals and hopes.
False awards, decorations and honors to magnify an act that will not bring any real benefit to ordinary people. Where no one can fully understand the hardness of that pea hidden under the blankets. Only the princess, who in this case can be seen as the artist, is trying to reveal the truth with this work.
Or, on the contrary, in a more obvious reading, only a few could obtain the right to gain anything from wars. Few have been recognized as "princesses" and have gained the true power and benefits under these endless layers of colored medals that engulf a more raw and difficult truth.
The work called Bhuru rinoonekwa nemavanga recall a shona proverb which can be translated to “a real bull can be seen from its scars”, as explains Troy Makaza.
Looking at the work it appears almost like a map, a cartography. On the right side there are numbers 14 117 and two letters, ZW, country code of Zimbabwe, engraved on white silicone, almost a milestone that marks the way and the kilometer reached by the young people of Zimbabwe.
Here Makaza, inspired by this proverb, denounces a very difficult situation in today’s Zimbabwe, where many young people are engaged in drug use due to the high un- employment rate and “just to kill time”.
These numbers demonstrate the heartbreaking truth of a consumption or rather of an abuse of drugs. The center of this mapping is in fact full of capsules, the new scars of his land, which in the outermost part still remains a blood red color and reflects, in its entirety, a fear of uneasiness or death that one tries to overcome taking pills.
Delusions of decisions is a series of two works.
In one of the two, the abstract figure seems to be an elephant head. That same shadow that we find in the flag of the Infantry Brigade, there on a red background, a symbol of power and strength, and of the giant animal that reflects old age and wisdom. However, the title of the work is Delusions of decisions: that is, the choice, the difficulty that exists even in the appearance of wisdom.
Here is the delirium and the difficulty of losing rational control, the intensification of passion or the exaltation of the imagination.
This figure, already difficult to recognize, appears even more distorted in the second of the two works, where the weave is lengthened, the weft threads are no longer able to fully support an understandable form.
External intertwining and interlocking give a feeling of tension and stretching, like something about to fray, to break.
As flowing and wavering between sculpture and paintings, in troy Makaza works there’s always an attempt to reconnect and patch up what is stretching or breaking. It’s a continuous flux back and forth. An attitude of breakup and reconnecting, two opposite poles as starting points of his production.
Lastly, for the creation of Instinct of great survivors, Makaza recalls the equations taken from his math book from the first years of elementary school. From them he extracts only the equations with wrong results, remembering how they made sense then and how, in his stubbornness as a child, when he was given a challenge, it was welcomed with open arms always looking for a solution, right or wrong.
This way of acting connects him to the saying "a Zimbabwean always finds a way to survive in Zimbabwe."